That Girl’s Blog: One Of My Heroes

Cat Wilson with Duane Minton at Mezza Luna, July, 2015

Your heroes are supposed to live forever.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still hold onto this belief that good people live forever. I think that’s why I sat for so long in disbelief when I read the news:

“Tonight, we are mourning the loss of a former USCG Auxiliary District 7 shipmate Duane Minton, who passed suddenly.  All those whose lives he touched have kind words and great stories.”

I tried to trace the post back to its origin to see if it was, by chance a different Duane Minton, or at least, someone’s attempt at a poorly planned joke. It was not a joke. 

I was fortunate enough to have had “Mr. Minton” as a teacher at Tabor Academy. I was struggling in his chemistry class. By struggling, I mean failing. I understood the concepts, but I couldn’t do the math. In fact, I was struggling in math class, too.

In addition to having Mr. Minton for science, I was also signed up for his photography class. Of course, you need to remember, this was back in the “old days” when taking a photography class meant developing your own film and seeing your images appear on special paper, as if by magic. Because I was doing so badly in chemistry, I was self-conscious and embarrassed to the point where I wanted to avoid going to photography.

To my great relief, Mr. Minton treated me like every other student in his photography class and it became a sanctuary for me to explore and learn. It also turned into an opportunity for Mr. Minton to learn about me.

“Starting Line” photo by Cat Wilson, November 1988, developed by Duane Minton

“Ms. Wilson, does this picture look funny to you?”
I had been experimenting with perspective and Mr. Minton was holding up a picture I had just developed. It was the starting line numbers on our new track. I looked at the photograph and it looked fine to me.
“Let me have your negatives.”
Mr. Minton disappeared into the dark room and came out a few minutes later with what I thought was the exact same image. He held them up, side by side.
“What do you see?”
“Two pictures of the starting line on the track?”
“Are you sure?”
“This one is backwards” he said gesturing to the image I developed. “Can you see it now?”
It was in that moment that Mr. Minton figured out the reason why I was struggling in his class. In the coming days and weeks, he took extra time to break down the equations (especially Molar equations) so that I could work them out to correct answers. He also took the time to work with my math teacher so he could help me catch up with the rest of the class. It wasn’t easy, but it eventually helped me learn how to work out problems on my own.
Four years ago, I had the chance to meet up with Duane for lunch in Buzzards Bay when he was on his way back home to Maine. He had been teaching in the in Saint Croix and part of the Coast Guard for many years. It was the first time I had been able to talk with him in over 25 years!
Duane’s passion for his students hadn’t changed and he still remembered my time at Tabor Academy to the details of my friends and the one poorly planned practical joke we tried to play on him.

I can’t tell you what we had for lunch that day, but I can tell you that I am grateful for the time we had to spend together “catching up”. It gave me the chance to tell him what I am sure I never said when I was his student: Thank You.

Perhaps our heroes can live forever, if we hold onto their memory and pass on their lessons to the next generation:
Take your time. It’s ok to be frustrated, but don’t give up. Take lots of pictures and share them with the world so they can see things through your eyes. And laugh whenever you have the chance. 

Duane Minton

Duane Minton, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, teacher and friend.

If you would like to share a story, please email me: 

About Cat Wilson

Cat Wilson is "That Girl" on Cape Country 104 – a Cape Cod native and longtime Cape radio personality. She is a passionate supporter of Military and Veteran causes on the Cape and also hosts local music spotlight program, “The Cheap Seats” on Ocean 104.7.
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