Friday, September 8, 2023

WHS Class of 1963 fondly recalls role models

By Ed Pierce

Windham High School’s Class of 1963 gathering Wednesday at the Little Meeting House is something that Carroll McDonald of Windham says he’ll never forget.

Carroll McDonald of Windham displays a wooden replica
of a P-51 aircraft that he flew during World War II. He was
presented with the model as a gift during a gathering of
members of the Windham High School Class of 1963 at
the Little Meeting House on Wednesday afternoon for
being a genuine friend to the class. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
McDonald, 98, was himself a graduate of Windham High in 1942, and went on to become a P-51 pilot during World War II. He returned to Windham after the war and became a postal carrier until he retired and then volunteered for years as a Meals on Wheels driver.

Through the years, a special kinship and bond has developed between McDonald and members of the class. McDonald’s son, David, was part of the WHS Class of 1963, and some members of the class performed in the town band with David McDonald and his father.

“Carroll is surely near and dear to all of our hearts,” said Al LaRhette, a member of the Class of 1963. “I remember getting to play in the band with him when we performed at Fenway Park in Boston for the State of Maine Day in 1959.”

LaRhette said Carroll was known as a friend to all the class members and is beloved by everyone who knows him.

“He was just always there for us,” LaRhette said. “He had a way about him. It was like when you were with him, you were the most important person he got to speak to that day. He’s been a cherished friend to all of us throughout all these years since our graduation.”

To commemorate McDonald’s devotion to the WHS Class of 1963, the class invited him to attend their gathering in Windham and then presented him with a wooden P-51 model like the one he flew during World War II and personally engraved to Lt. Carroll McDonald and his original unit, the 487th Fighter Squadron at Page Air Force Base in Ft. Myers, Florida.

“It was a total surprise,” McDonald said. “I will treasure it always. I think it will either have a place on my desk at home or a spot in my front window to show it off to my neighbors.”

McDonald said he’s always liked LaRhette, who was a close friend of his son and now lives in South Weymouth, Massachusetts.

“I remember going to visit them once when David and Al worked construction out in Michigan,” he said.

LaRhette said that he and David worked in construction together after graduation from WHS and the project they worked on was at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan. Both went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force and David McDonald passed away at the age of 76 from prostate cancer in 2021.

Another special guest at the gathering was Korean War veteran Jerry Black, whose late wife, Mildred, was the faculty advisor for the Class of 1963 at Windham High.

Mildred Black taught history, civics, and social studies to students at Windham High during a long teaching career that began in 1955, while her husband Jerry was an art teacher at Falmouth High School. She passed away in 2017.

“She was our favorite teacher,” LaRhette said. “We just had to invite Jerry to this event today because he was Mildred Black’s arm candy. We miss her greatly.”

To honor his contributions, including being the past president of the Little Meeting House Association where the gathering was held, class members gave Black a replica of a 1918 Model T Fire Engine that he bought and restored as a teenager. Black told the gathering that the fire engine still works today and he still owns it although it’s currently on loan to a museum in Owl’s Head, Maine.

Of the 62 graduates of the WHS Class of 1963, some 34 members and their spouses attended the event and each of them personally shook McDonald’s and Black’s hands and wished them well.

“Like I said, this is something that I’ll never let go of,” McDonald said. “I feel so loved.” <

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