Stanley Keirstead of Farmington is being remembered for his educational leadership and artistic talents. He is shown with his wife Barbara during the dedication of the Mt. Blue Campus Courtyard in 2015. Keirstead passed away on May 11. File photo

REGION — Beloved community member Stanley Keirstead passed away on May 11, leaving behind a legacy of art, teaching and mentoring as Mt. Blue High School’s first principal, and as a watercolor painter who avidly passed on his skills. 

Keirstead played a prominent role in Mt. Blue High School’s establishment in 1968 and fostered the school’s expansion during his three decades as principal. 

“He was very instrumental in the designing, planning and hiring of people to staff Mt. Blue High School which when it opened was just a 10-12 high school,” former student Tom Ward said in a phone interview. 

In 2015, the school memorialized Keirstead’s efforts alongside other founding members by engraving his name in a granite bench outside of Mt. Blue’s cafeteria. At the time of the ceremony, Ward was superintendent of Regional School Unit 9 and was able to officiate the ceremony and thank his former principal for his work.

“He showed great empathy as an educational leader. He was a great mentor as a teacher and as a coach as I moved into administration,” Ward said. “He’s the one who really inspired me to be a high school principal and to move into administration. I just liked his leadership style and I tried to live up to that style throughout my career.”

Even as a student, Ward remembered Keirstead’s leadership style as one to admire and strive towards. 

“He was very fair to everybody. He treated everybody the same. He was very positive and he took care of his staff and students, and he was very respectful to families,” Ward said.

After Keirstead’s retirement from Mt. Blue, he and his late wife Barbara Ann Peary Christopher became active members in UpCountry Artists. The couple had a shared love for watercolor painting and transformed the garage in their Farmington home into a studio where Keirstead held evening group painting classes. 

“Stan taught art classes for community members, ages ranging from teens to octogenarians. Class members would attend for years upon years to commune with fellow artists and hear the jazz music Stan would play during class time,” Keirstead’s step-daughter, Cheryl Wells said in an email.

Co-owner of Wilson Lake Inn Tom Whalen who continues to paint today, attended Keirstead’s lessons for about six years in his garage studio. 

“Stan was a really lovely man, he was just a nice guy. He didn’t tell you what to do at the workshop; he might suggest. And he was certainly available if you had a question, but it was a very relaxed kind of place,” Whalen said in a phone interview. “It was a collaborative thing with half a dozen students, and we’d chit chat for a couple hours and paint. It was very positive.”

Janice Maxham, who featured Keirstead and his students’ paintings at her former Sugarwood Gallery on Broadway St. in Farmington, also fondly remembered the lively atmosphere Keirstead would create. She would host some of Keirstead’s workshops and she was reminiscent of the constant chatter as canvases grew brighter with watercolors.

 “He was a dedicated lifelong educator to youth in his early years and shared his art knowledge and talent with the adult community in his later years,” Maxham said in a phone interview.

Keirstead passed away at the Pierce House where he and his late wife would volunteer their time to keep residents company. The family is waiting for gathering restrictions to ease up before holding a ceremony.


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