March 4, 1934 - April 25, 2020
There will be no funeral services.
Raymond Blanchette, 86, died April 25, 2020 at his home in Alfred. He was born on March 4, 1934 in Laconia, NH to the late Phillip and Marie (Marion) (Savage) Blanchette. Ray is survived by his beloved wife of almost 59 years, Priscilla (Thyng) Blanchette of Alfred, ME, his sister, Claire Blanchette-Clark of NH, his daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Steve Chase of Ellington, CT, his son & daughter in law, Christopher & Karen Blanchette on Mansfield, CT, four grandchildren, Chelsey (Kyle) Peterson of SC, Greg Stearns of CT, Jennifer (Andrew) Parker of CT, and Amber Blanchette of CT. Also, six great-grandchildren, Madison, Aubrey, Brody, Charlotte, Colton & Shawn.
Across the street from his home, Ray could see the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee and as he grew up he learned how to swim, pilot boats of many different sizes and powers and to learn the “rules of the lake”. He spent many summers exploring the entire lake investigating each bay, shore, and island.
As a very young boy, about the age of 12, Ray began his working career as a short order cook at a diner near his home. The tasks of peeling potatoes, deep frying clams, making pizza, sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs, steaming and shelling lobsters, helped to develop the kitchen skills he later used to help pay his tuition for college. Many times during his college years, he made breakfast, lunches and dinners for organizations associated with the college. The summer provided him with opportunity to work at several restaurants in New Hampshire which catered to the exclusive and varied summer visitors to the state. His culinary skills and knowledge were enhanced each year.
Ray graduated from Laconia High School in 1952. It was during his high school years that his love of the sciences were encouraged and developed by his favorite teacher, Howard Wagner. Chemistry and physics were his favorites. When he entered Plymouth State Teachers College, he majored in the sciences with the intent to enter the teaching profession. He also became interested in drama and joined the Plymouth Players as a set builder and designer. Occasionally he would take small parts in the plays the group presented. This experience enabled him to spend his college summers in Minnesota with a theater group. He was even offered a job in New York Theater as a set designer, but the desire to teach was stronger than the lure of New York.
Ray taught one year in Meredith, NH and was offered a position at Winnicunnet High School, as a teacher of chemistry, earth science and physics. Winnicunnet was a new regional high school and the faculty was selected very carefully to help establish a well-organized and modern curriculum for its students. It was there that he met his wife, Priscilla Thyng, a Social Studies teacher. She taught several years in Connecticut while he remained in New Hampshire. They were married on July 1, 1961 and spent their honeymoon traveling across the United States during the summer. Packing a new Saab with camping gear, they visited the northern states from New Hampshire to California returning to the east in time for the new school year.
In 1963, he was officially relieved of his duties as a member of the Army Reserve. Shortly after graduating from college, Ray had served for six months and was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. His major assignment there was to arise very early in the morning to start the fire in the wood burning stove in the area that occupied by his Sargent. No one else in his company had any idea how to start and nourish a wood burning stove. His Sargent was always grateful for his service and relieved him of many other onerous tasks as a result.
Ray began teaching in Wethersfield, CT, as a science teacher in the junior high school. He decided to begin his studies for a Master’s Degree at the University of Connecticut and completed his degree as Master of Science in teaching in 1963. He and his wife had moved to Lebanon, CT during this time and it was here that they met other teachers at Lyman Memorial High School who became life-long friends. Ray and Priscilla moved to Windham, CT and it was there they adopted their two children: Christopher John in 1966 and Lisa Anne in 1968.
When a position opened up at the University of Connecticut, E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Ray was appointed a member of the staff as chemistry and physics teacher. He remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1994. He helped to establish courses in advanced chemistry and wrote a manual of lab techniques for his students. Many of his students told him in later years how his courses encouraged their interests in science as a career. His students entered science fair competitions and won awards for their presentations. One of his students became a doctor who later in his career became very active in the fight to ban tobacco and cigarettes. He often told Ray that his interest in science was encouraged and developed by his classes with Ray. Not only was Ray an excellent teacher, he was a spokesperson for improving pay and working conditions for all teachers. For many years, he was a representative from the school to the Connecticut Education Association in helping to develop professional standards, salary enhancements and bargaining techniques. During the 1970’s the state of Connecticut initiated many positive changes in the professional careers of teachers in the state.
While teaching science was his major effort, he continued his interests in cooking. Each year, the faculty and staff at E.O. Smith H.S. had a lunch that was prepared by Ray with help from several other teachers. This was no small part of the special afternoon set apart from the ordinary school day. Vichyssoise, bouillabaisse, perfectly roasted prime rib, salads and desserts – one year was a Sacher Tort made by another faculty member, Adeline Theis. Each year there were some very special items on the menu.
Ray was involved in the local government of Windham Center, Conn. He served on the local library board helping to manage the moving of a historical building, the office of an 18th century doctor on the green of Windham Center. For many years he prepared a special quiche for the annual antiques show sponsored by the local historical society. Slices of quiche were sold for those attending the show where many antique dealers declared that this show was the best of all the antique shows in Connecticut. For several years Ray was a part-time bartender at the Alteveigh Inn in Mansfield, Connecticut. In order to be eligible for social security benefits after retirement, he needed to have a job from which he could apply for the benefits since teachers were not eligible for social security benefits.
In each of the schools in which he taught, Ray was active in dramatic presentations. While at Lyman Memorial High School he helped design and build the sets for “Teahouse of the August Moon”. He assisted the drama coaches several years helping in the many ways behind the scenes. Not only was drama one of his favorite activities, helping to keep statistics at sports events and attending musical performances but also he contributed to many events the school sponsored.
Both Ray and his wife supervised student teachers for the University of Connecticut for several years after their retirement in 1994. Their strong commitment to the teaching profession was supported by the opportunity to assist young people just beginning their careers.
In the 1990’s Ray and his wife had begun the renovation of the camp at Mousam Lake they had inherited from Priscilla’s parents. The camp was in need of many repairs and it was updated to the status of a cottage in the late 1990’s. For many years, they had spent time at the lake with the children and it had become a favorite place for the family. Ray and Priscilla remained very active in their Homeowner’s Association for the first 10 years acting as Treasurer and Secretary of this association.
During their retirement years, they traveled to Europe, the Caribbean, Canada and many states within the United States with both Elderhostel and Interhostel (Rhodes Scholar) programs. When travel became less easy, they stayed at home becoming involved in local government. Ray served as a member of the Alfred Planning Board and Priscilla was a member and Officer for the Parsons Memorial Library Board and Budget Committee. Both of them served on the Alfred Festival Committee for several years.
The last few years of his life, Ray was limited by increasing disabilities associated with an infection that resulted in dementia. Dementia robbed him of his incisive sense of humor, his ability to cook delicious meals, the understanding of the social world and the memories that define and attend the lives of the elderly. He was a beautiful man that will be missed dearly by many. He will be remembered fondly for his incredible cooking ability. His daughter, Lisa Chase, gave unconditional love and attention to his needs during these last years. Aging Excellence provided home care for the past few years. The family wishes to extend a special thanks to Mike Wickwar of Aging Excellence for his devoted care towards Ray during past few years.
There will be no funeral services. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that if you are able to, please make a donation in his memory to a food bank or charity providing services to those in need during this present crisis.
The Autumn Green Funeral Home, 47 Oak Street, in Alfred, Maine is respectfully handling arrangements.