WELLS — On June 3, former Wells-Ogunquit Community School District committee member and past chairperson Russ Fox was honored for service to the school district with the dedication of a European beech tree on the front lawn of the superintendent’s office in Wells.

The tree was planted last fall, adjacent to the office on Route 1.

Fox, whose two decades of service on the school committee ended in June of 2013, has been battling esophageal cancer since last summer.

Superintendent Ellen Schneider, School Committee Chairperson Marc Saulnier and district staff were on hand for the brief dedication ceremony.

“I want to thank you for being a mentor even though you told me it was only going to be three meetings a month,” joked Saulnier about serving on the school committee. “On behalf of the entire district, I want to thank you for setting an example, taking your responsibility so seriously and always putting the kids first.”

“It is an honor to recognize the years of service that Russ Fox has given to the Wells-Ogunquit School District,” Schneider said after the tree dedication. “His 20 years of commitment as a member of the school committee and as chairperson has had, and will continue to have, a lasting positive impact on our school system and is a testimony to his dedication to WOCSD.”

WJHS Librarian and Teacher Association President Lynn Mercier was one of the staff members at the tree dedication.

“Russ Fox is a great supporter of education and a tremendous friend to the community,” Mercier said. “I enjoyed working with Russ. He is a very hard-working individual who always put students first. It has been an honor to work with him on the many educational issues over the past twenty years.”

The plaque placed beside the tree reads, “The WOCSD School Committee dedicates this tree to Russell P. Fox for his many years of dedicated service.”

Fox served as chairman three times and treasurer for multiple years. Fox said that he worked with six superintendents in the past 20 years.

Fox said that it was “curiosity about how the board was run and the duties of it” that originally motivated him in running for a seat on the school committee.

“I kind of enjoyed it, and I just kept running,” he said.

Fox, whose four children were educated in Wells schools, said his greatest contributions to the committee were during the planning and construction phases of the new Wells Elementary School and renovation of Wells Junior High School in the early to mid-2000s.

In an interview following the tree dedication, Fox expressed gratitude for the support he has received from family, friends and other community members since his cancer diagnosis. Fox is steadfastly optimistic about his fight to survive cancer.

“I will beat it,” he said, without hesitation. “You know it’s just a matter of time. It’s going to be a long haul.”