FARMINGTON — Arthur "Art" Perry, who was an active member of the community, was remembered Thursday as a fabulous teacher, a mentor and someone who made everyone feel special, whether it was in the classroom, on the ski slope, in a performance, at a board meeting or in the woods.
Perry, 77, of Farmington, succumbed to cancer on Wednesday, his son Flint Christie of Farmington said.
Perry taught English in SAD 9 for 20 years until retiring in 1998.
“He made everyone feel special and inspired hundreds of students like me over the years to pursue English in college, as well as their dreams,” said Lisa Laflin, executive director of the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area in Farmington.
“He was just a fabulous teacher,” she said. “He was also a mentor.”
He was all about making each person feel special and after seeing him, it made you feel like the day was brighter, Laflin said.
“As a teacher, he challenged you,” she said. “He was very inspirational.”
“Art was a warm, kind and gentle soul. When I arrived in the district, he was chair of the English Department and when he retired he continued to work with students,” said Mike Cormier, superintendent of RSU 9/SAD 9. “He tutored students who were unable to attend school."
Perry also helped with the fundraising campaign for the renovated Mt. Blue High School and Foster Technology Center campus. "He never lost interest in Mt. Blue Regional School District and was a tremendous supporter of our youth,” Cormier said.
Before the Emery Community Arts Center on the University of Maine at Farmington campus opened its doors in September 2011, Perry was already involved as a community representative on the Advisory Board, center Director Jayne Decker said.
“I asked Art to work with me in the early planning stages because of his deep commitment to our community,” Decker said. “I knew his guidance would be significant and honest, and he would be a strong voice for the community he loved.”
One of his favorite exhibits during the center's first year was “Celebrate our Youth,” featuring the work of Roger Bisaillon's Mt. Blue High School artists.
“He asked if we could bring them back the following year, and I promised Art we would — and they will be in Emery again this spring,” Decker said.
Perry was also deeply involved in the local theater company, the Sandy River Players, said Decker, who is artistic director for the group.
“I had the great pleasure of directing him in several productions,” she said. “He was our lovable mayor in 'Inherit the Wind,' and Oliver's grandfather in our production of 'Oliver!'”
“Art was a tremendous spirit, and he will be greatly missed,” Decker said.
Christie said his father was always a teacher at heart and he wanted people to have all the avenues to be able to learn everything there was. He wanted to give back to the community, his son said.
Perry was also a steward of the woods and helped preserve and maintain acres of land near downtown Farmington for people to enjoy, Byron “Buzz” Davis said.
“It was a pleasure to work with him in the woods,” he said. “He really had a great appreciation for the trails and he thought a lot about the trails and was very conscientious of the people who used them.”
Perry worked to enhance wildlife and plant life, and was instrumental in getting volunteers to do the work in the Bonney Woods and Flint Woods, which combined represents more than 50 acres, Davis said.
Both men worked on a project to create the Powder House Hills Trails that upgraded and connected trails on Village Corp. property to create a longer trail network. Perry was instrumental in the Bonney Woods Corp. and the Farmington Village Corp., securing a federal grant and getting local contributions to cover the $47,561 project.