Media Archive

Penquis Valley instructor honored with scholarship in his name

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 24, June 16, 2004

MILO Sunday, June 6, Graduation Day for the graduates at Penquis Valley High School, also brought a great surprise to instructor Walter E. Oakes, Jr., health instructor at the school.

At the beginning of the scholarship presentations for the program, Donald Oakes, son of Walter E. Oakes, was at the front of the auditorium and asked his father to come join him at the microphone. Donald Oakes told the audience and his father that what he was about to do he had been thinking about for a long time. He said he had been thinking of doing it the year his father retires, "but," as he continued, "who knows if he ever will? I thought this year, my 25th anniversary from graduation from this school, on this very stage, would be an appropriate opportunity to start this scholarship."

Oakes told the audience that this scholarship will honor his fathers' years of teaching, 45 and counting, "longer than the lives for many of us here." At that point Oakes asked the audience to show their hands if they had had his father as an instructor. Oakes taught Driver Education for 36 years and also taught adult education and summer driver education.

In making the scholarship announcement, young Oakes stated that it would be awarded for leadership; citizenship-community involvement; and scholarship-academic achievement. Recipients will have the following characteristics and attitudes-commitment, hard work and perseverance. "Finally," Oakes said, "his father's scholarship recipient will embody making the most out of his or her talents and abilities."

Oakes said he hoped that this recognition will become one of the most prestigious awards given at Penquis Valley High School. Deserving recipients will enjoy the privilege and satisfaction from the significant achievements in being awarded this scholarship.

Oakes then said, "It is now my honor and pleasure to announce the first recipient of the WEO Scholarship to Cameron Wellman."

Wellman, from LaGrange, is president of the Katahdin Chapter of the National Honor Society of Penquis Valley High School, a member of the Penquis Track Team, and very active in the Key Club of Penquis Valley High School. He has been accepted at the University of Maine in Orono in the field of Political Science.

There will be one recipient of the $500 scholarship each year at graduation. The selection will be through the Penquis Valley High School Scholarship Committee and the WEO Scholarship Committee. Donald Oakes said, "one final note, the person who receives this award should be a hard worker who embodies making the most of his of her talents and abilities."

Walter Oakes, Jr., was born in Milford, Maine, the son of Helen Oakes and the late Walter Oakes, Sr. Oakes is the oldest of five children. He attended Old Town High School and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono, where he was awarded a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and Health. He was a member of the Maine Army National Guard, with the 195th Army Band, playing percussion.

In 1959, he married Nancy Dube of Old Town. The couple moved to Danforth, where he began his teaching career at Danforth High School in September 1959. He taught a mixture of classes at the high school level.

They moved to Milo in 1962, when he began teaching at Milo High School. He taught biology and other related subjects as well as Driver Education. In September, 1969, when Milo High School and Brownville Junction High School consolidated into Penquis Valley High School, Oakes moved to the new high school, where he has taught health, biology and other science courses.

Oakes has taught Driver Education to a guess of more than 2,500 students, counting his summer driver education programs and adult education. He also has taught Hunter Safety Courses. He has been a sponsor of the school's annual Hunters' Breakfast, been a class advisor, and has served as timer at the school's basketball games for many, many years.

The Oakes have four children, Janet Smith, who works in counseling for the State of Maine and lives in Industry; Donald Oaks, a vice president for L.L. Bean and lives in Falmouth; Karen Thurston, a nurse who lives in Rumford Center and Joanna Oakes, who works for MBNA and lives in Belfast.

They have six grandsons, Jany and Shane Smith; Casey and Matthew Oakes; Logan and Ethan White and two granddaughters, Christina Oakes and Lauren White.

When does Walter E. Oakes plan to retire? His future plans are to teach on year at a time. He would like to teach 50 years, "Then I will be able to draw my full Maine State Retirement without any penalty." Oakes said. Time will tell if this comes true. In the meantime, we all congratulate Walter Edward Oakes, Jr., for his many teaching endeavors.

The establishment of the award came as a complete surprise to Oakes at the school's 36th Commencement Exercises on Sunday.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.