MILO, Maine — A history teacher at Penquis Valley High School for more than 35 years placed third in the National DAR Outstanding Teacher of American History Contest this spring.
Russell Carey, who grew up here, was nominated to receive the state honor by Tisbury Manor Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, in Monson.
Chapter member Barbara Joyce, state recording secretary, said she had been impressed by Carey’s effort to have every student graduating from PVHS do a family genealogy.
“That project is what made me decide to nominate him,” Joyce said. “And it turns out he far exceeded our expectations.”
Members of Tisbury Manor said they were thrilled to learn first that Carey had won the Maine DAR Outstanding Teacher of American History award for 2010.
Three generations of the Carey family, including son Ian and father Herbert, accompanied the teacher to the state banquet where he was honored.
His nomination packet included letters from teachers, a principal, a prominent lawyer and a retired brigadier general of the U.S. Army. But Joyce said it was Carey’s words themselves that touched the hearts of DAR members.
Carey had learned from his grandfather Arthur the story of Revolutionary War veteran Ezekiel Chase, who enlisted in the Continental Army in 1778 and was taken prisoner by the British in 1781.
“He was confined on a prison ship anchored in the harbor of New York City and suffered great tortures and inhumane conditions for nearly two years,” Carey wrote. “Ezekiel survived and eventually became the first settler in Sebec.”
Ancestor Alasco Carey served in the 12th Maine Infantry in the Civil War. On sentry duty one night he had no choice but to fire his rifle when a shadowy figure in the darkness ignored his warning shouts. His target turned out to be, as Russell puts it, “a marauding mule trying to slip through the lines.” On telling this story on himself, Alasco always said, “Well, at least we had fresh meat for several days.”
Not all the soldiers who come to life in Carey’s classroom are his ancestors. Pat Paterson was exposed to mustard gas on the Western Front during World War I.
“His eyes were constantly filled with tears, his nose was always running, and he was always coughing to clear his lungs,” Carey wrote. “To compound problems, he also suffered from shell shock. His body shook uncontrollably, and he had a difficult time speaking, walking and eating. He had no family, and his one true friend was my grandfather, Charles Doble.
“My grandfather would take me with him whenever he went to visit Pat. He wanted me to see and hear what war could do to a man.
“When Pat passed away I helped my grandfather clean out his little house,” Carey wrote. “My grandfather gave me Pat’s doughboy helmet, his dog tags, his bayonet with four notches carved into its wooden handle, and one of his service medals. Today, when we discuss the Great War in my classes, I relate my experiences with this veteran and let the kids handle his personal artifacts. Combined with excerpts from the book, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ and black-and-white photos of the War to Make the World Safe for Democracy, my students have an easy time remember-ing and understanding the cost of the War To End All Wars.”
For three decades, Carey has taken students to Washington for the Close Up government studies program, encouraging young people to take seriously the obligation of becoming the citizens of tomorrow. On Election Day, he likes to walk his government classes to Milo’s polling place in the town hall, where those who are qualified are encouraged to vote.
And he continues to soak up history, a few years ago taking his son on a 3,600-mile bicycle trip from Oregon to Milo.
Carey has been to historic sites at Jamestown and Yorktown, Fort McHenry and Mount Vernon, Bull Run and Antietam and Gettysburg.
“I have stood on the USS Arizona’s Memorial at Pearl Harbor,” he writes, “and seen the wall of names and the great ship’s eternal oil slick. I have taken students to stand at ground zero and at the Statue of Liberty in New York.”
Carey’s mother was a schoolteacher for 40 years. Carey has taught American history for nearly that long, in the place that gave him life — and a love of history that will live in generations of youth from Milo.