The Unity College community mourns the loss of one of its most passionate philanthropic supporters. Coral Mariette (Berkeley) Clifford, wife of Unity College founder Bert Clifford, passed away at age 90 on March 22 at her home in Naples, Florida.
Originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, Coral was born July 28, 1922, to Arthur and Cora (Brown) Berkeley. She married Bert Clifford on July 13, 1943, and together they moved to Unity where they raised three children. As a newlywed, Coral worked as a postmaster, bus driver and helped on the family farm. She was an avid seamstress who loved designing her children’s and later, her grandchildren’s, clothes. Coral and Bert wintered in Marco Island, Florida for many years where Coral was a regular on the tennis court and golf course.
Coral also loved cats, cars, clothes and costume jewelry; her grandchildren and great-grandchildren always marveled at her dynamic color-coordinated outfits. Coral was deeply devoted to Bert and encouraged him to pursue his dreams in the telephone industry that included buying Unity Telephone Company in the 1960s, founding a cellular telephone company, Unicel Corporation, in the 1980s, and establishing philanthropic foundations in the 1990s.
Pioneering telecommunications progress and promoting rural revitalization in Maine were central themes in Coral and Bert’s lives. In 1963, Coral became a director of the Unity of Telephone Company, a post she held for more than four decades. She also served as secretary and treasurer on the Board of Directors, and in 1988 when Unicel was founded, Coral was named as a director. Coral is best known for her belief in community service and her contributions as a philanthropist. She was a member of the Josiah B. Drummond No. 91 Order of the Eastern Star for more than 60 years, and served terms as both matron and secretary. She was an active member of Unity Union Church, where she participated in United Methodist Women.
In 1995, Coral and Bert spearheaded the “Field of Dreams” outdoor athletic complex which provided free public access to baseball, softball and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, a playground, outdoor exercise equipment, walking paths and a concession booth situated overlooking picturesque Unity Pond. Coral was instrumental in creating the Unity Center for the Performing Arts, a 200-seat theater and art gallery that quickly became a cultural landmark for the entire region. Coral and Bert quietly and generously supported communities, families, scholars and organizations throughout Maine for their entire lives. This culminated in forming the Clifford Charitable Foundation, whose purpose was to maintain the Field of Dreams and develop new cultural and educational opportunities, and the Unity Foundation, which awards funding to nonprofit organizations. As a final generous gesture, Coral gifted the Field of Dreams and the Unity Center for the Performing Arts to Unity College, a local higher education institution that her husband helped establish.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 6 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Classics Country Club at Lely Resort located at 7989 Grand Lely Drive in Naples, Florida. In lieu of flowers, Coral’s family asks that donations be sent to the United Methodist Women of Unity Union Church, P.O. Box 146, Unity, Maine 04988. Coral’s family will hold an internment ceremony in August at the Unity Union Church.