We lost a very special man last month with the passing of Bill Haines. Bill was a powerful force for good who touched hundreds of people in our community.
Bill was a true activist, constantly organizing student involvement in the community, state and nation. Bill taught at Montpelier High School for 32 years! Among other things, he worked on and created a handbook on student rights, a card catalogue of community resources, environmental initiatives, and various camping and canoeing activities.
In retirement Bill continued to inspire students through debate club, Project Citizen, We the People, student river cleanups … If there was a worthwhile community project, you can be sure Bill worked on it.
His leadership was grounded in his deep concern for his country, state, community and most of all, his students. Bill served on the Worcester select board for 12 years, was town moderator, served on the Doty school board, and served on the boards of several non-profits including Washington Central Friends of Education and Friends of the Winooski River. He also served on the Community Connections Steering Committee.
Bill met and married Leslie while both taught in Montpelier. They married in 1972 and built a house and moved in 1973 to Worcester where they raised two children, Liza and Cory, gardened, and enjoyed cutting wood. In his last years, he enjoyed his eight grandchildren, traveling with Leslie, the dog, Pickles, baking almond biscotti, reading, discussing politics and education, and canoeing with friends.
One former student, Susan Walbridge, said, “I was a recipient of Mr. Haines’ kindness at M.H.S. The M.H.S. 1970 Record (student newspaper) was dedicated to him. In part it stated, ‘as initiator of student thinking and student projects, he has found the midpoint from which an adult can guide, but not lead, stimulate, but not claim.’ I remember him especially because he treated us “business” students equally to the “college prep” students. He saw us as true individuals. The world will miss this very special person. He touched so many lives in a positive way.”
Other students spoke of Bill’s kindness and how they wouldn’t have made it through school without him.
Longtime friend and colleague Sue Clayton said, “How can we write a short tribute to Bill Haines? It would take a book at least. He was such a good friend for so long that I can’t quite believe he is gone.”
Wendy Freundlich, Coordinator of Girls/Boyz First Mentoring said, “Bill was one of my very first mentors when I began running Girls/Boyz First almost 20 years ago. He was an enthusiastic mentor to John and I think he enjoyed his role as mentor. Bill was a strong supporter of mentoring ever since, helped me to obtain funding from Worcester town and the select board and always had an encouraging and positive word to say, lifting my spirits greatly when the burden of funding the whole program fell onto my lap.”
And Jon Scherbatskoy of Worcester said, “Bill always had something helpful to say if someone wanted to know about a town problem; who to contact (in town or at state). He was always wanting more for the children of the area in the way of education, recreation, and entertainment.”
Former student Brett Campbell said that our community was fortunate to have Bill Haines in it, that he made it better and stronger. He continued, “I will miss you, Bill Haines. My life was made richer because of you. I reached far greater potentials and abilities because of you. Thank you for what you did for generations of students at MHS. We are all grateful to you.”
Bill was my mentor and friend. He always pushed me to look deeply at whatever situation was before us. I relished our conversations and enjoyed visiting Bill and Pickles when it became difficult for Bill to come to meetings. I know he enjoyed our visits because he was still so very involved with community right up to the end. Bill was beloved by many because he worked tirelessly for the betterment of our community. We will miss you!
Those wishing to materially recognize Bill’s life of service may donate to Montpelier High School Canoe Program, attn. Brian Gallagher, 5 High School Drive, Montpelier, VT 05602; or Friends of the Winooski River, P.O. Box 777, Montpelier, VT 05601.