the past 40 years, Harry True has traveled from his home in
Fryeburg once a month to visit his favorite teacher in Blue Hill.
He made his
final visit yesterday (Wednesday) to speak at her funeral.
teacher, author and historian Esther Wood died at her home at
Friend’s Corner Sunday, Dec. 1. She was 97.
True met Wood
when he enrolled at Gorham
Teachers College after serving
in the Navy during World War II.
veterans, he was unsure of his future. Wood taught history at the
True said he
struggled through his freshman year, relying heavily on the help
he received from Wood.
start of his second year, he was called back into the Navy to
serve in the Korean conflict.
him at the time, Wood called Senator Margaret Chase Smith, an
influential member of the Armed Forces committee.
after he was called into service, he received a call from a Navy
“I don’t know
who you know in high places,” the captain said to True, “but I’m
sending you back to college.”
True said the
incident changed his life completely. He believes that had he gone
back to active duty, he never would have attended college again.
graduated in 1953, having taken every course taught by Wood.
in 1992 after a distinguished career in education, including
headmaster jobs at Fryeburg
Academy and Maine Central Institute. He also served four terms in the Maine
House of Representatives.
educator, he continued to rely on Wood for advice.
told her she should’ve been commissioner of education,” he said.
Stevens Academy Headmaster David Hitchings would agree.
He said he
first met Wood within hours of taking on the GSA headmaster’s job
He turned to
her for help in writing a history of
Stevens Academy for the student
The brief but
descriptive history provided by Wood has been included in every
handbook since, Hitchings said.
“In our first
meeting, I discovered her love for George
Stevens Academy,” Hitchings
said. “From that point on, I could see how much in love she was
with the academy. She was always there for the students.”
took several forms.
financial support to the school’s expansion projects and
construction of tennis courts. She also donated land to the
academy that is being used to create athletic fields and a
tremendous financial contributions,” said Emil Andy who served as
assistant headmaster at GSA for nearly 30 years.
“She was such
a wonderful resource for the community. She will be missed at GSA.
She was a big supporter and a wonderful friend.”
philanthropy was always offered anonymously. Personally helping a
student always came first.
a professor at the University of
Maine and resident of Surry,
came to know Wood intimately while compiling an oral history.
years, he videotaped Wood, compiling 50 hours of tape that was
edited into four 40-minute videos.
interviews and an accompanying book are available at the Blue Hill
Library and the George Stevens library.
“She had an
influence on me,” Curran said. “I regarded her as a second mother
in some ways.”
described Wood as a fount of information on the history of the
Blue Hill area.
straddled 200 years,” he said.
memory of local lore came from first-hand accounts from her
grandfather who was born in the early 1800s and her father, born
in the 1850s.
record a history of George
Stevens Academy, Wood underwrote
the oral history project. Though it started as a history of the
academy, it quickly became a history of Blue Hill.
uniqueness to me,” Curran said, “was her almost total recall. She
could speak for an hour and not repeat herself. She had an
incredible memory. I’d choose a subject, and she’d talk non-stop
for nearly an hour.”
Wood was a
founding member of the Jonathan Fisher Memorial in Blue Hill and
remained active in the organization until her death.
Bill Petry said Wood’s last request of the board was that Jonathan
Fisher’s journals be translated from his personal code and
working on that right up to when she died,” Petry said. “It was
her last project with the Fisher House, and she was active right
up to the end.”
maintained her membership in the
Blue Hill Baptist
Church throughout her life.
“She was just
a matriarch of the community—just a treasure,” Pastor Paul Comeau said. “She was such a grand storyteller. Being with her and in
her presence was just a joy.”
financial support to the church and the American Baptist Women,
but she is remembered most for her personal contributions.
the American Baptist Women chapter in Blue Hill and often hosted
meetings at her house.
she took on, the guiding light of her personality would shine
was a teacher,” said Lucy Ledien, a member of the Baptist
Church and GSA Board of Trustees.
“At the ABW
meetings, she always had a lesson to teach.”