“A good teacher is like a candle — it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

— Anonymous


Leavitt Area High School field hockey coach Wanda Ward-MacLean watches a game against Gardiner in 2016 in Gardiner. Ward-MacLean, who coached Leavitt for 39 seasons, died last week at 64. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Wanda Ward-MacLean’s fidelity to her students, athletes and school extended far beyond the classroom and playing field. 

She often attended their college games, weddings and sometimes provided housing for them. Whenever a former player reached out, Ward-MacLean stepped up. Her humanity is the culmination of her loyalty and kindness that will be remembered by all those who knew her. 

The late field hockey coach and dutiful educator lost a courageous battle with metastatic breast cancer and died Friday at age 64, leaving a gaping hole in a community that cherished her for her devotion to Leavitt Area High School students. A celebration of Ward-MacLean’s life will be held at the Vista of Maine Vineyard at 146 North Hills Ridge Rd. in Greene from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. 


Ward-MacLean, a 1977 graduate of Lake Region High School who played four years of field hockey and two years of basketball for the University of Connecticut, was a fierce competitor and she demanded that level of play from her high school athletes.

Ward-MacLean coached the Hornets for 39 seasons and steered them to four state titles (1994, 1996, 2012 and 2021) and eight state championship appearances. She piled up 399 wins and collected an unofficial 400th victory in a scrimmage against Lisbon on June 14. She was also a physical education teacher at Leavitt and was recently inducted into the Maine Field Hockey Association Hall of Fame.


Cathy Marston played for the popular coach and eventually became Ward-MacLean’s assistant for 16 years.

“(It was) her love for the game, her love for the kids, and if you are Leavitt, you bleed green,” Marston said. “You know it is like family. Everybody is in it for the same reason. We love the game. We are all competitive. She was all those characteristics that she imbedded in me. To this day, I still want to do her proud. 

“She expects a lot of you — and I liked her work ethic. She was a phenomenal lady; I learned so much from her. I’ve known her since I was 14 years old, and I am now 51 and we biked together. We went on vacation together.”


Of course, everybody who played for or coached with her, has a story to tell about Ward-MacLean — and Marston is no different. 

“I remember there was one game and I came off the field, and I was a bit of a hot head,” Marston recalled. “I kind of tossed my stick on the sidelines — and she wasn’t having any part of that. (Ward-MacLean) picked (the stick) up and chucked it under the bleachers. She was so mad at me for being a sore sport and she was like, ‘We are not having that on the sidelines.’

“That was just her temperament, and like, ‘If you are going to do it, do it well,’ like keep your composure on the field.” 

Leavitt field hockey coach Wanda Ward-MacLean gives directions for a drill during a practice in August 2013 in Turner. Ward-MacLean, who died last week at 64, led the Hornets to four state championships and eight regional titles in 39 seasons as the Hornets’ head coach. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Like Marston, Tara Giroux, the Leavitt current JV field hockey coach, was introduced to Ward-MacLean at the age of 14.

“I graduated in 1998. She opened my eyes to world of Division III field hockey,” Giroux wrote in an email. “I never knew that would even be an option for me. I went on to play all four years at the University of Southern Maine. The perseverance and commitment she instilled in me and my teammates carried me through my four years at USM, both athletically and scholastically.”

After graduating from USM in 2002, Giroux joined Ward-MacLean’s staff, but from 2009 through 2011, Giroux stepped away to finish her masters degree in occupational therapy.


“I think she asked me every year if I was going to come back to coaching,” Giroux said. “Lo and behold, I returned under her in 2012 and have been coaching with her ever since.”

Now Giroux must move forward without the woman who has been a constant presence in her life for nearly three decades.

“To say I’m lost is an understatement. But I’m so grateful for her guidance, loyalty, and our friendship over the years,” Giroux said. “She was my coach, my mentor, my colleague, my friend, and a part of my family. I’m always honored to say she was my coach.”


Marston’s daughter, Keriah, played right midfielder on the 2021 Leavitt state championship team.

“I have known Wanda for probably my whole life,” Keriah said. “(It was) different relationship with her than with like some of the other players because she was more like family.” 


Keriah said Ward-MacLean was devoted to Leavitt and a traditionalist when it came to coaching the Hornets. Keriah added that playing for Leavitt was indeed a “big deal” for Ward-MacLean. 

“Even after we had a bad game, she was always like, ‘It’s all good, just keep your head up and we will get the next one,’” Keriah said. “She was always really, really caring, and always helping someone out no matter the circumstance. Sometimes she would bring me to practice.” 

For Keriah, losing her field hockey coach was like losing a family member. 

“In a way, I think we lost a living legend,” Keriah said. “It is hard.” 

Leavitt field hockey coach Wanda Ward-MacLean celebrates after the Hornets won the 2021 Class B South title in November 2021. Leavitt went on to win its fourth state championship under Ward-MacLean, who died last week at the age of 64. Dustin Williamson photo

But sweet memories like getting a warm embrace from her coach after the Hornets beat Old Town 1-0 to win the state title game in 2021 will always stay with Keriah. 

“I remember after the game Wanda was holding her arms out and she hugged me, and she was like, ‘We did it,’” Keriah recalled, “and I was like, ‘Yeah, we did, Coach.” 


Stacy Hood, now a teacher in Windham, played for Ward-MacLean from 1996-2000 and even did a one-year coaching stint with the longtime field hockey coach.

Hood, who was a freshman forward when the Hornets won their second state title, still marvels at how Ward-MacLean created such a long-term positive environment and kept the community involved with the field hockey program. 

“It didn’t matter if you were friends off the field or not, you were family during the season,” Hood said. “I don’t know how to explain how she created that (positive environment) year after year after year. 

“(Wanda-MacLean) was an important piece of my life for a long time. She started as my coach and then as my mentor. I did my student teaching with her, and I am coming up on my 20th year as phys ed teacher just like her.” 

Hood said Ward-MacLean became a third parent to her and helped her in one situation. 

“I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 19, because I thought I knew what I was doing, and I moved into her apartment building … and we just became close,” Hood said. “She was just so consistently there for me in good times and bad times and everything in between.” 


The tears still come when Hood discusses her coach’s well-lived life. 

“I don’t know if I just took it for granted that she would always be there — a text away, a phone call away — but I am so grateful for the time I had with her and the time that my daughter has had with her,” Hood said. “She showed up for a lot of people for a long time. She never let you down.” 

Ward-MacLean enjoyed Hood’s company and the pair would go to see the coach’s former athletes playing college field hockey. 

Leavitt Area High School field hockey coach Wanda Ward-MacLean watches a game against Gardiner in 2016 in Gardiner. Ward-MacLean, who coached the Hornets to four state titles in 39 seasons, died last week at 64. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I loved it,” Hood said. “She was there for former players. It is a great memory — and it is not just field hockey.” 

When Hood broke up with her first boyfriend, she knew immediately where to go for some advice and understanding

“I showed up on her doorstep and she told me to come in, and she was eating dinner and slid half her chicken onto another plate, and we sat down and talked,” Hood said. “That’s just who she was my whole life — just giving to me right up until the end.” 


Just days before Ward-McLean died, Hood was buying a new home “and she was still giving me advice.” 


Caroline Bochtler-Labrie also played for MacLean and lent a helping hand with Leavitt’s indoor field hockey program during her offseasons from the Husson University field hockey team. 

When she started teaching with Ward-MacLean, the 2007 Leavitt graduate eventually began coaching with her for six years.

“So Wanda and I were actually co-workers,” she said. “She taught phys ed and I’ve been teaching health at the high school since I started. So she went from being my coach to my co-worker and I became her JV coach.” 

Bochtler-Labrie admired Ward-MacLean’s steadfastness as a coach. 


“She was just a fierce person and she brought that out of her athletes,” Bochtler-Labrie said. “If you played field hockey, like you always had someone that was like right there ready just to support you, fight for you, stand up for you — like, she was always there.” 

Ward-MacLean would also stay busy attending Bochtler-Labrie’s field hockey games at Husson. 

“I remember I had to play goalie for a season because ours was hurt, and Wanda came to my first game as a goalie,” Bochtler-Labrie said. “I remember I could hear her coaching from the other side, and I listened to everything she said. She was always there. She went to my wedding, she went to my baby shower.” 

Bochtler-Labrie said Ward-MacLean demanded the best from her athletes, but her players knew their coach would also be there for them. 

Bochtler-Labrie couldn’t resist pointing out that Ward-MacLean was also an outstanding badminton player. 

“She lost one badminton game in 36 years of teaching,” Bochtler-Labrie said. “She would always partner up with the kid that struggled the most, and the thing that was even funnier is the kid would be like, ‘Oh, I don’t even care. I am terrible at this … and Coach Ward is my partner. We are going to win the whole thing.’ She was phenomenal at badminton.” 


Bochtler-Labrie met with her coach for a “special goodbye filled with a lot tears” before Wanda-MacLean died. 

“It was one of those things where it almost doesn’t seem real,” she said. “It was a big change for people to see her even physically struggling at all. She took care of herself so well.” 

Leavitt freshman coach Taylor Eells said Wanda-MacLean was a positive influence in her life. 

“She always approached games and victories with humility,” Eells said in an email. “She emphasized teamwork and collective success over personal recognition. She pushed you to work your butt off until you appreciated the journey as much as the destination.

“Her support, guidance, friendship continued off the field after high school, and I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to return to the field and coach beside her. As I continue to navigate the future, I aspire to exemplify her coaching qualities and impact our players as much as she impacted hers.”

While players and an entire community continue to grieve, they can also take heart in knowing a dedicated educator and coach made a world of difference for many young lives in their small village.

“She was an amazing lady, and she will forever leave a mark on my heart,” Cathy Marston said. 

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