Martin Charles Mackey with his wife Jen, daughter Elise, son Wyeth, and family dog. Photo contributed by: The Mackey family.

Family, friends, colleagues and students of beloved educator Martin Charles Mackey of Brunswick are remembering him after his unexpected death on April 20.

Mackey died while surfing off the coast of Cape Cod with his son. The cause of death is unknown.

Mackey worked with Maine schools since 2006, beginning his teaching career with the REAL school in Brunswick, formerly part of Regional School Unit 21 in Windham and Raymond. While there, he worked as a teacher, vice-principal and principal.

Craig Haims, a close friend, former colleague and co-founder of Collaborative for Perpetual Innovation, said Mackey was known for his “authenticity, compassion, relentless optimism, positivity, energy and a willingness to do anything possible to help people.”

Haims said he will miss his friend’s lightning-fast wit and uplifting, celebratory sense of humor.

After Mackey became principal of the REAL school in Brunswick he became a mentor to Haim, who is now the director of the Katahdin program in Windham and Raymond.


“He’s my speed dial buddy,” said Haims, who noted that Mackey was his mentor even though Mackey was six years his junior.

Haims said Mackey’s e-mail signature sums up his approach to life: “It’s always best to maintain a healthy disregard for the impossible.”

Siblings Stephen, Marisa, and Martin Mackey at a ranch in Arizona. Photo contributed by Marisa Mackey.

During Mackey’s 13 years with the REAL school in Brunswick, he worked alongside Ed Tech III Melissa Cleaves, who said he took care of all his students and co-workers.

“I have never felt more supported in a workplace,” Cleaves said. “He made you feel like he was looking out for you specifically even though he was doing that for every student.”

Brunswick-based school Superintendent Phil Potenziano, who worked with Mackey, said, “Martin was a fierce student advocate and always worked to ensure equitable educational access for the students who were often considered marginalized.”

Long-time friend and Brunswick resident Kevin Cashman said he and Mackey were close, coaching their son’s soccer team together, riding bikes and spending time with each other’s families. Cashman recalled the first time he met the “larger than life figure” at the Crystal Spring Farm co-op in 2007.


“I was digging in the dirt, and it was hot out. All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy coming down the hill on a long board in flip flops and a T-shirt,” said Cashman. When Mackey arrived, he proceeded to hug everyone because he was friends with all of them, he said.

“He was so comfortable in his own skin with people. When you were with him, he was focused on you,” Cashman said. “He deeply loved having an impact on kids. My two kids called him Uncle Marty. He would show up at your house make himself toast and sit down. He disarmed people with his extroverted personality and kindness. He was a laugh. He will be deeply missed.”

From 2018 to 2020, Mackey served as principal of Nobleboro Central school. His former colleagues released a statement to The Times Record stating: “He was one of the most incredibly kind, caring and genuine people we have ever known. Martin would put others before himself. He always had a smile on his face and had a positive attitude, believing anything was possible. Martin’s sense of humor was infectious! He truly embodied one of his favorite phrases, ‘relentless positivity.'”

The statement continued: “Martin loved the children at Nobleboro and it showed every day. When children were in need, he tracked down cleats and sports equipment for those students who needed them. Martin visited homes of students bringing food and other necessities on a regular basis both before and during COVID.”

“Martin’s care for his staff was amazing,” the statement read. “On his first day he made sure we had his cell phone number and told us to call or text him at any time. Martin made it a priority to learn about his staff’s family. He knew all of our spouses and children’s names. He could also list off our pets. It was vital to Martin that we put our own families first.”

Martin Charles Mackey, left, encourages Nobleboro Central School kindergartner Scarlett Rooks to try green eggs and ham on Dr. Seuss Day in 2019. She did not approve. Photo contributed by Nobleboro Central School

In 2020, Mackey became the director of the Rethinking Responsive Education Venture of the Maine Department of Education, where he worked with schools in Maine to develop the tools for hybrid learning during the pandemic.


While working full-time in education Mackey also earned a Master’s in Special Education from the University of Southern Maine, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Leadership from the University of New England and was working toward a Certificate in School Management and Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Business School. Mackey was a co-founder of the Collaborative for Perpetual Innovation (CPI) and the president of the Alternative Education Association of Maine from 2015 to 2019.

Martin Mackey. Photo contributed by Marisa Mackey.

Dozens of friends, family, students, and collogues have written messages about Mackey on the web-based ecard Kudoboard.

One student wrote:  “Martin, or as us students called him ‘Martini,’ I will forever be grateful for you, because without you I wouldn’t have graduated. I wouldn’t have been the person, mom, or friend I am today. Although, I was definitely hard to handle. You always had faith in me that I could do whatever it took. Thank you, for never giving up on me I love you, Martini! Forever! And forever grateful for the time I spent at the Real School with you! You’ll be missed.”

Another friend and co-worker wrote: “Martin ended every phone call with, ‘Well, gotta go change lives.’ And that he did. …”

Mackey’s sister Marisa Mackey of Arizona said they had a very close-knit extended family. She said her brother had a heart for people and a gift for helping them reach their full potential: “People will miss his humor most and how he could make everyone feel like the most important person to him. He was just this ray of love.”

After receiving his degree in sociology from the University of Montana, Martin Mackey got his first job working with young people, serving as a guide for wilderness therapy programs.


He guided groups of at risks students through the wilderness and took them hiking, kayaking, camping and would then council them around a campfire, said Marissa Mackey.

Front row (left to right), Martin Charles Mackey celebrates Nobleboro school’s Therapy Dog Reading Program with volunteer dog handler and owner Chris Sprague, Chance, Lendon Benner, Kiley Sturdee and Sawyer Wright. Back row (left to right), Aiden O’Donnell, Otis Smith, Amilya Warner, Lucy Lofstrom-Thomas, Brady Weaver, Logan Rogers and Garidyn Wood. Photo contributed by Nobleboro Central School

After meeting his wife, Jennifer, in Montana, Martin Mackey settled in Jennifer’s home state of Maine where they married and had two children, Wyeth, 15, and Elise, 17.

“Being a dad was amazing for him,” said Marisa Mackey.

Marisa Mackey recalled that in March, she and her brothers Martin and Stephen were visiting their mother in Washington. Martin Mackey woke up around 5 a.m. to go for a 6-mile run. On his run he stopped to write a poem and immediately texted it to his sister, just as she was getting out of bed a few hours later. With boundless amounts of energy, she said, he even went for a 66-mile-long bike ride on Easter morning.

“Nothing daunted him,” she said.

Marisa Mackey said her brother was passionate about the outdoors and loved adventure. He even went canoeing in the arctic circle she said.


Martin Mackey comes from a family of educators. His mother Beth Mackey was a teacher and principal, while his father James Mackey was a professor.

“Marty had an incredible love for learning and wanted to help kids achieve and access knowledge,” said Beth Mackey, in a message conveyed through Marisa Mackey.

A memorial service will be held Friday, April 29, at 11 a.m. at The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing on Mackworth Island. Memories and condolences can be shared at Memorial donations may be made to the Mackey family support fund at; Seeds of Independence at; or Teens to Trails at

This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. May 2 to correct Wyeth Mackey’s age.

Martin Mackey with his sister Marisa Mackey hiking in Arizona. Photo contributed by: Marisa Mackey.

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