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Ex-LI educator Willard A. Monsell dies at 77

Willard A. Monsell died at 77.

Willard A. Monsell died at 77. Credit: handout

When Long Island native Willard A. Monsell turned 66 in 2000, he retired from teaching and the business world to Maine with his wife, Ruth. But the quiet and slow-paced life did not please him at all, she said.

"He was so bored," she said. "He was tired of being a househusband. He was still a high-energy guy and a little too young to retire."

Monsell went on to become the director of an award-winning partnership that has helped promote healthy lifestyles through anti-smoking, exercise and nutritional programs.

Monsell, an Army veteran formerly of Huntington, died of endocarditis on Oct. 16. He was 77.

The former teacher became director of the Healthy Maine Partnership for Lincoln County in 2000, where health initiatives he led received the Governor's Award for Outstanding Community Program in 2005 and the Heart Healthy Recognition in 2006.

One countywide initiative he ran was an annual weight-loss program that would culminate in large theme festivals, such as "Jog to Jamaica" and "Mambo to Mexico."

Ruth Monsell said her husband was still active just a few weeks before his death.

"Barely a month before he died, he was exercising five times a week, and even playing tennis," she said.

Monsell was in the Army from 1957 to 1963, she said. He was never called for a battle but was at the ready for deployment during the Cuban Missile Crisis, she said.

The Port Jefferson native worked in public high schools across New York State for 25 years, his wife said. He first taught business for two years in Hyde Park and then became a guidance counselor and administrator. Monsell worked at several Long Island schools, including William Floyd and Longwood High Schools.

Ruth Monsell said they met at the Wheatley School in Westbury, where she taught English. They married in 1974 and they moved to Connecticut in 1985, where he went into the business world, before going to Damariscotta, Maine, in 2000.

In Connecticut, he started three new businesses, including New England Components in 1985 and Advanced Power Systems International in 1990.

At Advanced Power Systems, he worked closely with co-founder and former race car driver John Cooper Fitch, who died Oct. 31.

Monsell died after an 18-hour marathon of surgeries at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He had been battling heart problems since 2000.

In a eulogy read at Monsell's memorial service, his youngest son, Jordan, of Valley Village, Calif., recalled something his father used to tell students. "Be positive in your life -- remember it's easy to be critical. Say I can, I will, I'll try. Believe in yourself. Be confident. Be resilient and flexible. Don't sit around being indecisive and waiting for a problem to go away or for the world to come to you -- go get it -- it can be yours."

Monsell also is survived by a daughter, Beth Monsell Falabella, of Newcastle, Maine; another son, Todd, of Charleston, S.C., and five grandchildren.

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