Milton “Milt” C. Van Vlack, 85, died at the Gregory Wing in Boothbay Harbor on April 15, 2016, joining his beloved wife, Jan, who predeceased him in February 2009.
He was born at Great Barrington, Massachusetts hospital on March 16, 1931, the eldest son of the late Albert N. Van Vlack and Mildred P. (White) Van Vlack. Milt spent the first 17 years of his life with his parents in Canaan Valley, Canaan, Connecticut. In 1949, he graduated from Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, Connecticut and went on to earn a B.A. degree in history at Bates College in Lewiston in 1953 and an M.A. degree in history at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1958. Later in his chosen educator career of some 42 years, Milt earned advance professional degrees in instructional media communications and library science from the University of Connecticut at Storrs in 1968 and social literacy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1975.
Milt started his teaching career as a “practice teacher” at Lewiston High School, Lewiston, in 1952 and then on to Sedgwick Junior High School in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1953. In 1965 he left the classroom full time to accept a position in the Hartford Connecticut Public Schools as an instructional media consultant for the city’s disadvantaged students. Five years later the superintendent of schools asked him to be the acting director of the Hartford Public Schools’ Media Services Department while the director was on extended leave. Milt remained acting director until the director returned five years later. Milt then returned to the classroom full-time and accepted a position as a history teacher at Bulkeley High School in Hartford. As acting director of media services, Milt felt it was one of the most rewarding experiences of his career. The reason is obvious. The media services department at that time consisted of six divisions that were crucial in giving Hartford students a good if not excellent education through all twelve grades. They were as follows: a system-wide closed circuit television system for 36 schools; supervision of all school libraries and instructional media centers; a print and publication division; instructional hardware equipment and repair; delivery and pickup for all instructional materials and hardware; and a 600 +/- 16 mm instructional film library. Video cassettes were just starting to be available. The entire media services department required the services of some 85 professional media personnel.
When the media services director returned from his leave, Milt chose to return to the high school classroom teaching American History and U. S. Government and a very special course in civil law and citizens’ responsibility to inner-city junior and senior students. It became one of the most popular courses in the high schools. Milt taught the course for 13 years.
In June of 1955, Milt married Janis Kisner of Hartford, a highly talented woman with a beautiful operatic voice and a deep passion for flower gardening. Their daughter, Tracey arrived in 1962. For Milt that meant family always came first regardless of anything else. As a public school teacher in the 1950s, the summer months could be a financial nightmare for a family man. Fortunately, Milt was a country boy with a rural dairy farm background and all the skills and abilities to go with it. He became a licensed mason in brick, concrete and plastering -- the days before sheetrock. He was also a plumber’s and electrician’s helper. Construction work came easily from working on barns, sheds, fences, etc. “Summer vacations” made for long days but they paid more than an entire year as a teacher.
Milt was normally a quiet man and rather introverted but engage him in an interesting conversation or hear him in the classroom or university lecture hall and he became highly personal and animated.
By 1958, Milt had become quite well known in academic history circles and started teaching at the college and university level. There again, he was multi-faceted in background knowledge. He taught Colonial American History, instructional media, studio television, and library science administration. On the lecture circuit he taught his favorite subjects of Revolutionary icons, and 18th Century architecture and furniture. He was an adjunct faculty professor for over 30 years teaching in the Connecticut university system in Hartford, New Britain, New Haven and Willamantic plus advanced media courses at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
Milt’s interests extended beyond academia. He was an Eagle Scout at 15 with two palms. As a teenager he was very involved in 4H and Grange. From the late 1940s to 1955, Milt was a pilot in the Civil Air Patrol (Rescue) out of Canaan and then Andover.
When he retired in 1992 and he and Jan moved to Maine, he finally found the time to become a Freemason and a member of Seaside Lodge No. 144, A. F. & F. M. in Boothbay Harbor. He was lodge secretary and historian for over six years.
The reason for moving to Maine was two-fold. He and Jan knew it well, with both their mothers being from Maine. Secondly, after owning a summer cabin in Boothbay Harbor from the late 1960s, they wanted to fulfill a marriage-long dream of owning and rejuvenating an 18th Century home. Boothbay Harbor had what they were looking for.
As the couple, now in their mid-sixties, went to work in 1994 on their dream house, it shortly became well known in the community for its holiday displays, its winter weekend open house to the community, and its summer flower garden displays open to the public when sponsored by various community organizations including the Boothbay Region Garden Club.
The Van Vlacks never quite completed work on their home before their names were called to a higher purpose.
Milt always held the highest regard for Scouting and Freemasonry ideals and made every effort to pattern his daily life after them. Whatever he did, he did his best.
Milt is survived by his loving daughter, Tracey Greenwood and her husband, Paul of Gray; a sister-in-law, Renee Van Vlack of Fort Myers, Florida; a nephew, Albert Van Vlack of Collegeville, Pennsylvania; a grandnephew, Matthew Van Vlack and his wife, Mia, of Collegeville, Pennsylvania; and grandniece, Jessica Sonder and her husband, Scott, of Boyertown, Pennsylvania.
He was predeceased by his parents, Albert N. Van Vlack and Mildred P. (White) Van Vlack, his brother Albert Van Vlack and his niece, Linda Gross.
Milt requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his and Jan’s memory to the American Lung Association, 122 State Street, Augusta, ME 04330, or for the love of animals to the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, 27 Atlantic Highway, P.O. Box 7, Edgecomb, ME 04556.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, April 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Hall’s of Boothbay, 975 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay. A Celebration of Milt’s Life will be held on Wednesday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at Hall’s of Boothbay with an interment to follow at Evergreen Cemetery, Barters Island Road, Boothbay.
Hall’s of Boothbay has care of the arrangements. To extend online condolences, light a candle for Milt or to share a story or pictures, visit his Book of Memories at www.hallfuneralhomes.com.