Buddy Earle made hundreds of connections during his career in Cape Elizabeth, where he taught and inspired thousands of students over a period spanning almost four decades.
Mr. Earle, a longtime resident of Falmouth, died Thursday at the age of 64.
He taught fifth and sixth grade for 36 years at Cape Elizabeth Middle School before he retired in 2007.
“My father loved telling jokes and stories, but to his audience most of his jokes were bad,” said his daughter, Gretchen McCloy of Portland. “He could still light up a room with a joke or a story.”
Mr. Earle was born in Rockville Center, N.Y., the son of Gilbert Earle Sr. and Ethel Rose Earle.
Mr. Earle’s father died when he was 4 years old, which led his family to move eventually to Falmouth.
He graduated from Falmouth High School in 1966 and attended Colby College, where he earned a degree in psychology.
He went on from Colby to earn a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Maine.
He started teaching at Cape Elizabeth Middle School in the early 1970s. That is where he met and fell in love with another teacher, Kathy Hanson. They were married in 1976.
His daughter, who works as a guidance counselor at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, said her father’s legal name was Gilbert but his mother always called him Buddy.
“It stuck with him,” McCloy said.
She said her father had a way of connecting with his students and his co-workers.
For instance, he would start his math classes by telling a joke.
“He wasn’t your typical fifth-grade teacher. He taught outside the box,” McCloy said. “He would try to find ways for students to recognize their own strengths.”
Though most of his students have graduated from high school, McCloy said some of the staff at the middle school still remember Mr. Earle.
“They said he was very unique, a one-of-a-kind teacher,” she said. “He took time out of every day to love the people around him.”
When he retired, the middle school’s former principal, Steve Connolly, created the Buddy Earle Scholarship Fund at Cape Elizabeth High School.
His daughter said the fund helped graduating seniors who were deemed to be positive role models.
McCloy provided an email listing her father’s favorite quotes and mantras.
“People won’t necessarily remember what you taught them, but they will remember how you made them feel,” was tops on his list.
His daughter said her father tried to get his students to focus on doing hard work, not necessarily getting top grades. He was not a fan of homework and encouraged his students to go out and play after classes.
Mr. Earle’s family created a website, www.everybodylovesomebuddy.com, where people could share their stories. The webpage introduction said the spirit of the website is to encourage people to love ” ‘someBuddy’ near you everyday, the way that Buddy loved us all.”
“Mr. Earle was a blessing to me in fifth grade. There was not one bad teacher I ever had at Cape Elizabeth, but Mr. Earle was a teacher that everyone connected with and made each of us feel unique and important,” Jessica Queally Sobey wrote on the webpage.
“I was so saddened to hear of Mr. Earle’s passing. I have such fond memories of him. Being so patient with sixth-graders. Not too many people could pull off that feat. I remember someone putting a thumbtack in his chair. Instead of getting angry he popped up out of his seat with a big smile and simply laughed and said, ‘ouch,’ ” wrote Dee Fournier.
Mr. Earle’s failing health led to his retirement, his daughter said. That is when his lifelong battle with diabetes required that he have a leg amputated. His leg was replaced with an artificial limb.
“He never let his medical challenges get him down. He just considered them bumps in the road,” his daughter wrote in an email. “He would often say, ‘I may shake, rattle, roll and bounce, but I’m still moving and that’s what counts.’ “
This story was updated at 11:55 a.m. Feb. 25 to correct the URL of the family’s memorial website.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: