Wiscasset Middle High School Principal Charles Lomonte’s late, great uncle Bob left a lot of things behind, in cereal boxes and elsewhere in the World War II veteran's Forest Hills, New York home: $100 bills.
Great Uncle Bob was a millionaire. “Seriously ... And no one ever knew. He could have done anything. He could have been boastful. But he was humble,” Lomonte told the Class of 2019 on stage in Stover Auditorium June 6. In his first graduation speech in the job, he shared the family story to help illustrate what he called the secret of life: Humility.
Lomonte urged the seniors to be humble like his great uncle was. Listen to people, and give credit to others, he said. Minutes earlier, when Class Co-President Matt Chapman and Class of 2018’s Vanessa Dunn finished performing “Do I Make You Proud,” Lomonte answered them and the class. “Yes, you make us proud. All of you.”
Senior essayist Nicholas Drogosek recalled his private school experience with “heartache.” He said even the other students saw him as a kid who got in trouble too often and hung out with the wrong people. Then he came to WMHS.
“Since coming into this school I realized how much better I have been treated, and how much more I’m seen like everyone else.” Drogosek credited staff member Shaye Paradis for always being there if he needed someone to talk to, and teacher Molly Carlson. He thanked Carlson for her positive influence on his life "and always putting your students' needs before your own ... You are one of the main reasons I'm standing right here tonight ..."
Two nights earlier, Class Night, Alecia Baker's senior essay the school provided to the Wiscasset Newspaper also praised Carlson.
“She taught me that my work is an expression of who I am, and I shouldn’t live my life in fear of what others will think ... She’s shown me how to trust others and believe in myself," Baker wrote.
What did Carlson think of the tributes? She was very touched, she wrote in an email response. "Nick (and) Alecia's ... ability to speak in public and share their stories with the audience shows their courage and confidence ... I just love the idea that these students who were treated so unkindly by the world in their early school years landed at Wiscasset Middle High School, were nurtured by the staff and their peers and blossomed.
"Despite my love of academia, I care about growing good humans first and then academic skills. Both (students) looked within and found themselves to be worthy and of the finest caliber," Carlson added.
Graduation night, Drogosek told fellow graduates they made his last two years of high school the best, and he wished them all the best.
Fellow senior essayist Caleb Gabriele said the class is full of talent, including Drogosek’s intensity and skills in pick-up basketball and Chris Loyola’s being “the fastest guy around.” He called Co-Class President Sydnie Thayer the glue that holds the class together.
“But there is one (classmate) who has literally been with me through this entire experience whether it was doing every sport together or living in the same house. That’s my brother Josh who I want to say thank you to for pushing me to be the best person I can in every aspect of life.”
Gabriele told the auditorium of classmates, families and friends, Wiscasset is so small, everyone knows everyone. “And that is one thing that makes it so special.”
Wiscasset’s school resource officer Cory Hubert felt similarly in an interview before the ceremony. His graduating class in Resteda, California had hundreds of members. “In some ways, a small town is better” for graduation, he said. “It’s a little bit more intimate. And it’s nice because the kids can each get more recognition.”
Graduation never gets old, Wiscasset High School Class of 1971’s Richard Mank said. It’s too important to, he said. “You can’t do anything without (a diploma).” He and wife Carol, WHS 1975, figured Thursday’s was at least their eighth Wiscasset graduation. “We love it,” Carol said.
That night was son Zachary Mank’s and granddaughter Kaleigh Mank-Webster’s turn.
Four generations of the family came, from the graduates’ great-grandmother Mildred Mank, to Kaleigh’s sister Elaina Brewer, 1.
So did former WMHS social studies teacher Ben Clark. In a lobby interview, he said he switched to the same job at Brunswick High School in March. He came back to see off the class he’d gotten to know. And Wiscasset was a good experience for him, he said. “I missed it.”
Then came a shout down the hallway. “Mr. Clark!”