BANGOR, Maine — Norris Nickerson, who spent 49 years educating and coaching Bangor students, died Wednesday evening surrounded by family, Superintendent Betsy Webb confirmed Thursday afternoon.
Nickerson, 74, was principal of Bangor High School for 22 years before retiring from his post in 2011, having spent the entirety of his nearly 50-year education career in Bangor schools.
He was also a longtime Bangor High School assistant football coach.
Earlier that year, his wife of 29 years had died of cancer.
Nickerson died of a blood disorder, according to Ron St. Pierre, Nickerson’s close friend and fishing companion for nearly 50 years.
“Nick was an extremely loyal individual. He was loyal to his school, loyal to his teams, loyal to his students and loyal to his friends,” said St. Pierre. “He never had a negative thing to say about anybody or anything. He always took the high road.
“He was certainly above all the pettiness that sometimes goes on in life. He had a nice attitude about life in general. He was dedicated to his friends, and he was a dedicated educator,” said St. Pierre, who also noted that Nickerson “really enjoyed a good time.
“We had a lot of laughs together,” he added.
“He was just a great guy,” said Bob Kelley, former longtime Bangor High School baseball coach. “He got along great with kids. His players loved him. He was a strong disciplinarian, but the kids knew he was right. And he was very thoughtful.”
“Mr. Nickerson was extremely proud of the high school, the faculty and staff, and especially of the students,” Webb said Thursday in a statement to school department staff.
Nickerson joined the Bangor School Department in 1962, teaching biology and physical education and coaching football. He was promoted to assistant principal in 1974. He became the school’s principal in 1989.
Webb said Bangor High School garnered many awards and accolades under Nickerson’s watch: National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, U.S. Newsweek Top 5 Percent of High Schools, Standard and Poor’s Outperformer, Sports Illustrated Top 50 Rating and more.
“He had high expectations for all, including himself,” Webb wrote. “He was tough but fair, and no one cared more deeply about Bangor High and the success of all students.”
“Mr. Nickerson had an old-school mentality to him,” said City Council Chairman Ben Sprague, who was a Bangor High School student during Nickerson’s tenure. “He was as dedicated as anyone I’ve ever known to his job, and he helped grow Bangor High School into the top-notch institution that it is today.”
City Councilor Joe Baldacci said he ended up in then-Assistant Principal Nickerson’s office on his first day of high school. He doesn’t remember what brought him there.
“Over time I came to respect him and his dedication and hard work,” Baldacci said. “Despite a big, sometimes-gruff demeanor, he had a huge heart for everyone and cared about the kids he served.”
Nickerson talked to the Bangor Daily News in 2011 leading up to his retirement.
“I hope I left a good mark. I’m kind of old-school. I’m very proud of that,” 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.”
Details of the service and funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.