In a brief private ceremony at Evergreen Elementary School June 16, just one day shy of his 95th birthday, Hugh McMillan of Lakebay was honored by the Peninsula School District board of directors with the official naming of the gymnasium building as the future home of the Hugh McMillan Community Center.
With construction nearing completion on the new Evergreen, outgoing Interim Superintendent Art Jarvis said the existing gym will be retained by the school district, thanks to the school board, so it can serve as a community center for many years to come.
“This is a living memorial, a living tribute,” Jarvis said. “Hugh has never varied on one thing: Hugh McMillan is all about kids. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts in the school system.”
After a few words, board President David Olson presented McMillan with an inscribed plaque he read aloud:
“Through your words and photographs, you shined a light on the students and staff of the Peninsula School District. You believed our stories were worthy of being told and we will carry that with us forever. Thank you for your inspiration. Your legacy will live on in the many lives that you have touched.”
McMillan, who is nearly blind now, stood proud throughout the ceremony.
“I sure would like to believe I was worthy of all these accolades,” McMillan said. “Being with the kids, being with the teachers, being with the schools and making our country … has been a huge part of my life. Next to my wife, it’s the most important thing.”
“There is no way for me to express my gratitude,” he said. “But you know what? I get the credit –– but you’re the ones who made it possible for me to do whatever it is that you think I did.”
Hugh Maxwell, in his eighth year as principal of Evergreen, said if he had a dollar for every time he has been introduced as “Hugh McMillan” he could retire himself.
“But what it really tells me, and shows everyone, is how ingrained you are in peoples’ lives,” Maxwell said as he faced McMillan. “If I can do half for kids what you’ve done Hugh, I will be just proud.”
McMillan said, “Well you do a helluva fine job, young fella.”
Jarvis said the ceremony intended to keep the speeches short and sweet, just the way McMillan liked it.
Following a round of applause came the customary photos of McMillan, first flanked by the school board members, then a moment with his old friend, board member Chuck West, followed by shots with a few friends from the Peninsula Education Foundation and finally with his son Lance, daughter-in-law Sheri and grandson Cameron.
The focus this day was on the newspaper man, the tireless old guy with a camera, who seemed to be at every community and school event for decades, on the other side of the lens now, with the sounds of camera shutters whirring to capture hundreds of pictures with smiles on every face.
To learn more about his work, see “Hugh McMillan: Four Decades of Impact on the Key Peninsula,” KP News, Feb. 2020, at: https://keypennews.org.
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