Wendell McCain (December 11, 1915 - January 6, 2013)

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Former Port Angeles High School teacher Wendell McCain died peacefully on Sunday morning, January 6, 2013, at the age of 97.

He was born December 11, 1915, in Spearfish, South Dakota, where his father was a professor of geography.

Wendell graduated in 1936 from Northern Normal, a teacher's college in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

After several years of teaching various subjects in small South Dakota towns, Wendell checked with his college placement office for something better. Heeding his mother's frequent advice — "If you ever get the opportunity, go West" — he drove his Model A to Port Angeles to teach at Roosevelt High School.

In those days, a teacher with four children to feed had to work extra jobs to make ends meet. Wendell, at various times, worked at the Crown Zellerbach paper mill, as a radio dispatcher for Olympic National Park and as a "cargo checker" on the waterfront in Seattle.

Most years, he was in charge of ticket sales and collection for Roughrider sporting events. For several years, he rose early enough to work for two hours at the post office before returning home to put on a coat and tie and head off to school.

No matter what his work schedule, Wendell always made time to participate in activities at United Methodist Church, including choir, Sunday school and Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Over the years, Wendell's excellence as a teacher was honored by numerous prestigious awards and assignments. In 1957, he was awarded a National Science Foundation/John Hay Whitney Fellowship that paid all expenses and his current salary to audit courses of his choice at Yale University for a full school year.

After the year at Yale, he returned to Port Angeles High School for a year. Then, facing the cost of having three children attending the University of Washington at the same time, he accepted an offer to teach in Seattle, Washington, and bought a house near the University of Washington.

In 1961, Wendell was selected to be one of 100 pioneer teachers of the National Science Foundation-sponsored, revolutionary new curriculum for teaching high school chemistry (CHEM Study). In the summers of 1964 and 1965, he was the University of British Columbia staff instructor of the new curriculum to high school teachers.

In 1981, the American Chemistry Society recognized his "accomplishments as an outstanding and inspiring teacher of chemistry."

In the classroom, Wendell was a rigorous taskmaster, but with his humorous demeanor and enthusiasm for imparting knowledge, he drew the best out of his students who would try. Over the years, he received many letters from former students crediting him and thanking him for preparing them for success in their careers.

Wendell was preceded in death by his wife, Lura.

He is survived by their four children, Carol Purvis of Yarrow Point, Washington, George (Alice) McCain of Kirkland, Washington, Jay (Diedre) McCain of Reno, Nevada, and Dori (Ken) Hathaway of Denver, Colorado; along with eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life for Wendell was held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 17, 2013, at University Temple United Methodist Church in Seattle.
Published in The Peninsula Daily News on Feb. 8, 2013
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