March 4, 2013

Feature Obituary: Peter Francis Walgreen, 65, retired teacher; loved 'the simple life'

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

RAYMOND - He died doing something he loved -- walking in the woods near the log home he built in Raymond.

PASSAGES

Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

Peter Francis Walgreen, a longtime resident of Raymond and Portland school teacher, died unexpectedly on the morning of Feb. 23. He had gone on a short hike with his 8-year-old granddaughter when he collapsed. Mr. Walgreen was 65 years old.

He moved to Raymond in the early 1970s and, with help from a friend, constructed a log home in the woods.

His wife said her husband wanted to lead a simple life because he had been influenced by American poet, author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau's best-known work is "Walden," a reflection on the two years he spent living in a log cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., in the 1800s.

"He wanted to live that kind of life, the simple life," Sharon Walgreen said. "We chose to work but not for the money."

Mr. Walgreen was raised in Hingham, Mass., and attended local schools, which is where he met and fell in love with his wife-to-be. They were married for 44 years.

After earning a degree in English and psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Mr. Walgreen attended the University of Southern Maine, where he earned an advanced degree in early childhood education.

When Portland Public Schools offered him a job teaching kindergarten, he accepted.

"He said, 'I'll try anything once,'" his wife recalled.

He became the city's first male kindergarten teacher. He taught at Lyseth, Riverton and Presumpscot elementary schools.

It turned out to be a rewarding career. He taught for 25 years before retiring from teaching in the mid-1990s.

"He wanted to give these kids the basic things they needed to succeed in life," his wife said.

Mr. Walgreen also raised horses, cows, chickens and sheep on land he dubbed "2 acre farm" in Raymond. In addition, he grew strawberries and built an apple cider mill on the farm.

After he retired from teaching, he went into real estate -- an occupation he pursued until the time of his death.

Mr. Walgreen somehow found the time to become an active member of the area lakes association.

He checked boats and watercraft at the Sebago Lake beach in Raymond for signs of milfoil, an invasive plant that can form dense mats that clog the water, crowd out native aquatic plants and degrade the habitat of fish and other wildlife.

"It was important to him to get the message out," his wife said.

He became a community leader, dedicating countless hours of volunteer work to the Raymond Recreation Department where he spent 40 years.

He loved to downhill ski and led many Friday night recreation department ski trips to Shawnee Peak in Bridgton.

He went skiing the night before he died. Sharon, his wife, met him afterward at Shawnee Peak, where they had dinner together.

"He had just gone skiing. He was so happy that night," his wife said.

Mr. Walgreen requested that he not have a funeral. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Raymond Recreation Department.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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