ORONO - Philmore B. Wass, 97, of Orono, Maine, passed away peacefully April 6, 2015, following complications of a stroke. He formerly lived in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Florida, before moving permanently back to Maine after the death of his wife Dorothy in 2008.
Philmore was born to Hervey and Mabel Wass on Whitehead Island Light Station, St. George, Maine, on August 16, 1917, where his father was assistant lighthouse keeper. Philmore was two when his father accepted a position as head keeper on the remote Libby Island Light Station at the mouth of Machias Bay, Machiasport, Maine. The family lived on Libby Island for more than twenty years, which Philmore wrote about in his memoir, Lighthouse in My Life.
During his years on Libby, Philmore and his siblings were sometimes taught by their mother and an itinerant teacher. Other years his mother, Mabel, moved to the mainland with the children so they could go to school. During those years, Phil attended the elementary Model School at Washington State Normal School in Machias. He graduated from Machias High School in 1934 and the Washington State Normal School in 1937. He received a B.S. from the University of Maine in 1940; a M.A. from the University of Iowa in 1941; and a Ph.D. from Columbia University Teachers College in 1951. He was principal at schools in Andover, Maine, and Dysart, Iowa. He taught at Plymouth State College, Plymouth, New Hampshire 1942-1947; Central Connecticut State University, 1949-1952; and was Editor of American Education Publications at Wesleyan University, 1952-1955. He was Professor of Economic Education at the University of Connecticut for 23 years, where he served as Director of the Center for Economic Education from 1955-1973 and Head of the Department of Foundations and Curriculum from 1973 until his retirement in 1978.
Although Phil devoted his life to education, part of his heart never left Libby Island and after he retired he wrote Lighthouse in My Life. Published by Downeast Books in 1987, the memoir chronicles the hardship and isolation of living on a remote and often fog-bound island miles from shore. He tells of adventures exploring the island, helping land the "guvment boat" up the steep ways to the boathouse in crashing waves, hauling lobster traps from a rowing dory, and finding the shipwreck of the three-masted barkentine John C. Myers in December 1925. With proceeds from the book, he established a scholarship for students at the University of Maine at Machias.
Phil and his wife, Dottie, traveled extensively, including a trip around the world in 1968. Phil was an avid sailor, and he and Dottie sailed in the Caribbean, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and on the coast of Maine, where they sailed their beloved sailboat Carina well into their eighties. Phil was a life-long and active member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and belonged to the Community of Christ Church in Ellsworth, Maine.
Phil is survived by his two sons and their wives, Stanley Wass and his wife, Susan, of
Medford, Maine, and Donald Wass and his wife, Patricia, of Winsted, Connecticut; his granddaughter, Jennifer Wass Oese and her husband, Charles, of Littleton, Colorado; his grandson, Adam Wass, currently living in Ixtapa, Mexico; and his great-grandchildren, Cole and Simone Oese. He is also survived by his younger brother, Arnold Wass of Rockland, Maine; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sisters, Hazel and Winona; and his brother, Irwin. His former wife, Constance Wass, died in 2003.
The family wishes to thank the dedicated staff at Dirigo Pines, Orono, Maine, for the excellent care Phil received over the past few years. Donations in his memory may be made to University of Maine at Machias, "Lighthouse Keepers Memorial Scholarship" in the memo; Att: Amy Lentz, UMM, 116 O'Brien Avenue, Machias, ME 04654. A memorial service celebrating Phil's life will be held in Maine sometime in the summer, and at his request his ashes will be placed in the water off the coast of Maine.