7 Minute Miles

RIP: Mr. Demers 1940 – 2021 💜

Earlier this week, I came across a picture of my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Fox. Decided to fire up Duck Duck Go and see if I could find any information on what happened to her after Randolph Heights. Since online search in 2024 is terrible, couldn’t find anything. Just for kicks, I decided to search for my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Demers. Unfortunately, I found his obituary from 2021:

Richard Demers, Age 81, of Nashua, NH Died Thursday August 20, 2021 at Langdon Place after having faced the ravages of Alzheimer’s over the past several years. Born May 7, 1940 in Somersworth, NH, he was son of the late Ernest and Florence (Perreault) Demers and was predeceased by one son, Leonard, one sister, Pauline and one brother, Edward. Richard was a former high school history teacher for the St. Paul Public School System in Minnesota. He also served in the United States Army and Air Force National Guard. A vibrant man, Richard lived a connected life to his community – be it in the North Woods of MN at his beloved Woman Lake, the East Side of St Paul, or his daughter’s NH porch. He loved gardening (grew all of his own vegetables), fishing from his 1970 little green boat, snow mobiling with the old guys, travel (without a cell phone or credit card), long walks with his German Shepherds, reading history, DQ hot fudge sundaes, an provocative debate over a good cup of coffee, the Boston Red Sox, and most especially his four grandchildren. Survivors include Nicole Gates (daughter) and her husband Chuck, Louis Demers (son), Louise Ader (sister), and Isabelle and Jackson Gates and Deacon and Dominic Demers (grandchildren). SERVICES: There are no visiting hours. A private graveside service will be held at Forest Glade Cemetery in Somersworth, NH at the convenience of the family. The Davis Funeral Home, 1 Lock St., Nashua, NH 03064 is in charge of arrangements. davisfuneralhomenh.com (603) 883-3401. Published by Pioneer Press on Aug. 24, 2021.

How ironic that the person that instilled my love of history had so many things written here that I never learned until now. We all knew he lived on the East Side and had a son named Louis, but DQ hot fudge sundaes? Boston Red Sox? Woman Lake? Oh, to have another provocative debate now with the inventor of the OTE.

Speaking of opportunities to excel, so many great comments on the legacy.com page from former Saint Paul Central students:

Mr. Demers did for me what ever teacher hopes they can do--he changed my life. He was the first person who made me feel like a scholar. (I can still hear him starting each class with, "Good morning, scholars!" in his Boston accent.) I went on to get my Ph.D. and write many books, and it all started with the confidence he gave me during a crucial time in my life. My only regret is that I never told him thank you while he was still alive. Thank you, Mr. Demers!

What a beautiful tribute to Mr. Demers. I think I took every single class he taught--he made me a better stu-dent, and he is most certainly one of the people who inspired the way I teach today. I remember more of the work I did in his classes than in most of the MANY classes I had since then. He was a smart, funny, caring teacher and I am grateful that he gave that to us as students. My condolences on your loss, Demers family.

The impact Mr. Demers had on me and so many is in-delible. We were not students, but "scholars." Tests were "opportunities to excel." His lectures were vivid, enrapturing, and a bit irreverent. What stays with me the most is that he expected excellence. He never treated us as precious or fragile; we had brilliance within us, certainly beyond what many of us thought possible. We had to work to reveal it. His teaching reminds me to this day that each one of us will reveal our brilliance to those who believe in us. Rest in peace, Mr. Demers. Your spirit is alive within so many of us.

The best compliment he gave on essays was Nice - if you got a nice you were over the moon. The worst was Unfortunate. An unfortunate made you want the ground to swallow you up. He graded on a curve (people loved or HATED that, but it sometimes helped all of us when he gave a particularly difficult essay test and we all bombed it) and gave out exactly one A+ per class. The fact that I got the A+ in Western Civ my senior year is probably my proudest high school accomplishment. Rest in peace, scholar.

I took every history class I could with him, including an independent study I did on the history of classical music (with him serving as advisor). American Experience. Ancient Civilizations. Western Civilizations. All wonderful. All highly impactful on my life and the person I’ve become. He taught me about the Harvard Book and I almost went there because of him.

Writing notes in the borders of the history books he had us read led to my marriage to Demers classmate Colleen, who commented to me after seeing this news, “I cannot fathom that vast intellect being ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease. Heartbreaking.”

After seeing what that horrible disease did to my grandmother, my sincere condolences go out to his family. Please know that Mr. Demers positively impacted many, many lives of students in Minnesota and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be one of his scholars.

Originally published by DK on February 29, 2024 at 8:49 pm in History, Personal, Schools

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