UNITY, Maine — Many in Waldo County mourned the passing Thursday of a longtime educator and public servant described as a “local institution” who will be deeply missed.
Rod McElroy, 81, of Unity worked for more than 30 years in School Administrative District 3, serving as the first guidance counselor of Mount View High School, then the principal, then superintendent. After retirement, he served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives in the 1990s, always with an eye toward improving education for Maine’s youngsters, according to those who knew him.
McElroy also was part of many organizations including the Unity Barn Raisers, the Unity Planning Board, the American Legion and the Maine Genealogy Association.
“He was an amazing man. Really one of my heroes, and a very, very good friend,” John Piotti, executive director of the Maine Farmland Trust, said Friday. “He’s one of those people, even in older age, who still was open and excited by the potential he saw in people. He was sort of the absolute opposite of the angry old man. He had a spark in his eye, and he was great at bringing people together.”
Piotti, former majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives, said that McElroy encouraged him to run for politics — even though they were of two different parties. McElroy, a Republican, even publicly supported his Democratic friend.
“He always encouraged me,” Piotti said.
Wayne Suomi, a longtime SAD 3 administrator, said that McElroy was a great leader who was passionate about helping students.
“I don’t think I ever worked for a superintendent who cared more about the students in this district than he did. He was a taskmaster, but you knew that if you were out on the front lines doing your job, he’d be behind you 100 percent,” he said. “He was just a real community-type person who cared about the people and the kids … he’s kind of like an institution here in district 3.”
Maine State Librarian Linda Lord said that McElroy was the high school principal when she was a green, 22-year-old social studies teacher.
“He loved his colleagues, loved his students, and was the epitome of a caring, people person,” she said. “I remember him being very kind and supportive.”
McElroy was renowned for his prodigious memory, recalling the names of generations of high school students.
“He knew people, what their families were like, what their situations were,” said Laurie Osgood, president and owner of Unitel in Unity.
The duo served together as honorary campaign co-chairmen for Future MSAD 3 during fundraising for the new school complex.
“Rod was a very passionate person about everything, generally, in life,” she said. “He’s a very passionate leader, a very passionate person in the community. He reached out to all the families of the district he served in. He will be sorely missed.”
McElroy died after a struggle with cancer. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Gloria, and sons George, Kevin, Mark and Jeffrey.