ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland Tiger, 65, of Rockland died recently. Saturday, June 4, the tiger was surrounded by friends at an open-casket funeral in his home, the Lincoln Street Center, formerly Rockland High School.
“We won’t forget the tiger,” said Ben Perry, class of 1954, as he looked over the stuffed animal mascot’s casket. “Rockland High School, forever we roar. Everything is changing, but the tiger will remain. He is ours.”
More than 50 people stood by as the tiger was brought to the old high school in a hearse.
The funeral, although seemingly tongue-in-cheek, was met with genuine emotion from the people in the crowd Saturday. Rockland District High School will graduate its last class on Tuesday. In fall, it will combine with nearby Georges Valley High School to become Oceanside High School. It will have a new mascot, the mariners.
“This is a part of our history for as long as any of us can remember. This school used to be the thing that united the community,” said Mary Perry, who worked for about 27 years as an English teacher in Room 27 of the old school. She refuses to go up to the old room where she spent a quarter of a century.
“Too sad,” she said.
The school has been on Lincoln Street since 1868, according to alumni at the funeral. Since then it has been a high school, a middle school and is now a community art center. The tiger has been around since about 1946.
Moving about the funeral, planned by the Rockland High School class of 1954, was Lanta Preston Hachey , who now lives in Old Town.
“I’m in mourning for the tiger,” a woman said as Hachey walked by.
“Yeah. We all are,” Hachey said.
Nearby, as the funeral procession moved toward the old school’s gym, Tom Molloy, a former city mayor and 1955 alumni stood by watching.
“See that window there?” he said, pointing up to the brick building. “I was in that office more than the principal. Nostalgia. That’s all this is. This [school] is part of our heritage.”
On the sidelines in the gym, away from the candles surrounding the school mascot’s casket, was 1959 graduate Nancy Terrio, who now lives in South Thomaston.
This is where Terrio was a cheerleader. It’s where she fell in love with a Rockland High School football star, to whom she is still married. They will celebrate their 50th anniversary soon.
“There is a lot of high school pride here. Rockland High School was the best,” Terrio said.