MILO, Maine — For 50 years, Walter “Eddie” Oakes of Milo gave students hugs and praise for their efforts and contributions and supported their events.
On Friday, after spending the majority of those years in Penquis Valley schools, Oakes, 72, was the one who received the hugs and praise.
Faculty and students honored Oakes by naming the high school gymnasium after him. A plaque bearing his photograph was unveiled during an assembly. The plaque reads: “We, the students and staff of Penquis Valley Schools dedicate this gymnasium to Walter “Eddie” Oakes for half a century of meritorious service as a teacher and contributor to countless athletic endeavors at Penquis Valley High School.” It will be displayed on the wall near the gymnasium’s entrance.
Clay Savage, Penquis Valley High and Middle School principal, said Oakes had been the time keeper at more than 1,500 basketball games held in the gymnasium and he had operated the Knights of Columbus foul-shooting contest there for 30 years. In addition, Oakes had attended every graduation, prom and concert during his 41 years as a teacher in the district.
“I’m flabbergasted,” Oakes said after the ceremony “I’m very proud. It’s something I never thought would happen.”
Oakes, who retired from his full-time teaching job last year, was joined Friday by his extended family including his mother, Helen Oakes, his wife, Nancy Oakes, and their four children.
After serving three years as a teacher in Danforth High School, Oakes served six years as a teacher at Milo High School before his longtime stint in the Penquis schools. He taught driver education at Penquis for 36 years.
“He’s just been outstanding,” George Johnson of Atkinson, who attended the event, said Friday. Johnson said Oakes has served as moderator for many town meetings in the region over the years.
“What hasn’t he done?” Stacey Slagle of Brownville asked. “He’s a fixture of this institution and has taught most of us.”
Oakes, who now serves as a substitute teacher, admitted he was starting to teach third generations of families.
One of the younger generation, Rachel Emery, a high school senior, said she enjoyed Oakes’ sense of humor and the fact he was always approachable.
He is a great teacher, she said.
Oakes said he was appreciative of the recognition and honor. “Teaching was just something I loved to do,” he said.