BANGOR, Maine — Norris Nickerson, who has been Bangor High School’s principal for more than two decades, will retire at the end of the school year, Superintendent Betsy Webb announced Wednesday night during a school committee meeting.
Though Nickerson, who lives in Holden, did not attend the meeting, he said in a telephone interview afterward that after wrestling with the decision, he has decided it is time to step down.
“I’ve spent my entire career with the Bangor School Department,” said Nickerson, who is 71. “I’ve been blessed to be part of one of the best school systems in the state for a long time.”
First hired as a Bangor High English and science teacher and football coach in the fall of 1962, Nickerson was tapped to serve as assistant high school principal in 1974. After 15 years in that position, he was promoted to principal in 1989 and has served in that capacity ever since.
On Wednesday, Nickerson said his decision to retire was not an easy one.
“My wife [Linda] just passed away on May 31st,” he said. “We’ve been partners in everything we’ve done,” he said, and she served as the prime supporter of both his career in education and his work with the Anah Temple Shrine, for which he served as potentate in 2009.
“I was fortunate in everything we’ve done,” he said. “We had been married since 1982 and losing a partner after so many years is kind of tough.”
Linda Nickerson died at 59 after a long and courageous struggle with breast cancer, he said.
“We lost the battle. It finally conquered us,” he said. “So that helped me make my decision.”
Nickerson said Wednesday that one of his regrets was not attending last weekend’s Bangor High School graduation ceremony.
“I didn’t want to ruin their day with my emotion,” he said.
Nickerson said, however, that he was moved by the outpouring of support he and his wife received during her illness and upon her passing.
“People contacted us from all over,” he said. “I just didn’t realize that we had impacted so many lives. She was a very lovely lady.”
“I hope I left a good mark,” Nickerson said. “I’m kind of old school. I’m very proud of that,” he said, adding that he made it a priority to uphold “old-fashioned” values such as treating others with dignity and encouraging “old courtesies,” though he acknowledged that it sometimes made him unpopular with students.
“I did not allow some of the things that go on in other schools. It worked for us,” he said. “I had a very devoted staff and a very professional staff and we all worked together as a team. I’ll forever be indebted to them.”
Nickerson said he has not yet made firm plans for retirement.
“I think I’m just looking for ways to occupy my life. I’m sure something will come along,” he said. “Maybe volunteer work. I hope to be able to give something back. For now, though, I just need some time to sort things out.”