Archive for October 2nd, 2018


Good-Bye Jim and John

October 2, 2018


Many of you knew Jim Stampone but most of you did not know John Hilker and, Jim and John didn’t know each other. I wish they would have met. Sadly, they both passed away in September leaving behind memories for me and others, made through our connections working and playing.

Interestingly enough both Jim and John were grounded in their beliefs and weren’t afraid or hesitant to express them to protect someone’s feelings. They cared deeply about education and ignored and bended the “rules” in exchange for what was in the best interest of kids. Both were educators who touched thousands of learners of all ages in their careers.

Jim with “Bud” and “Bart”

Jim Stampone was a high school art teacher for many years at Falmouth High School. I met Jim and saw him each year at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts for the annual Maine Art Education Association conference. He was an artist through and through. My most vivid memory of Jim was one of the  weekends he was in the blacksmith workshop. He created a large and amazing piece knowing that it would look great in his garden at the farm he lived at and it would fit well traveling home on his old truck. Jim’s long hair and beard, faded blue warn overalls and big smile endeared him to many. I was sad when he chose to leave his art classroom but happy for him that he had chosen to move on to farming and creating leather into beautiful pieces. He and his wife owned Winter Hill Farm near Freeport and lived in the 1865 farmhouse. They raised an ancient breed of New England dairy animals called Randalls. He touched so many lives while on earth I’m certain his teachings will continue on for many generations. Great Salt Bay Elementary Art Teacher Karen Hight said about Jim – “Stampy”: “The last time I saw Jim we talked for quite awhile and he told me then that he felt like he’d had an amazingly full rich life and he was grateful. I feel so sad about his passing, but mostly I just feel grateful. He was an art ed rock star and he taught all of us so much!” 

Jim died of a heart attack and will be greatly missed. A memorial is planned for Jim on November 24, 2:00 p.m. at Falmouth High School. JIM’S OBITUARY.

John Hilker started his career in teaching as a special education teacher but what he really was, is far greater! Perhaps the only true renaissance man that I’ve known. He had a rough exterior which stemmed from having little time for people who wasted time and money on what he called “frivolous ideas and behaviors”. I worked with John at a middle school. I think it was 1982 when a student of John’s showed interest in technology. John bought a computer kit using his own money and the two of them set to work building a computer. I think it was a Commodore. They learned side by side and it was the first technology instruction that took place in our large school district. Not long afterwards John moved to the math classroom, then to social studies and writing. It didn’t matter which class John actually taught everything integratively. He moved students to the center of their learning long before it was the thing to do. He realized that kids needed to drive their learning based on their passion. John and I worked on a team designing interdisciplinary lessons – the Holocaust, Greek studies (history, architecture, archeology, mythology, and more), Tesselations, bookmaking and on and on. In an earlier life he had bought the tools to teach himself how to weave and to throw a pot. Some of the best work stemmed from the collaborative team I was on – no one appreciated and respected the place for the arts in education more than John. Our team led the transformation of the school from a traditional junior high to a middle school. He was a walking “google” in many ways. Eventually he was the first to fill the position of district wide technology coordinator. He didn’t take anything too seriously, least of all himself. One time while hanging artwork in the school hall I kicked off my clogs to climb the ladder more safely. I assumed when they went missing that one of my middle school students had taken it. But no, the kids said “Mr. Hilker has them in his room on a pedestal.”

John died of a heart attack and unfortunately there will be no service. I’m sure he’d want folks that knew him to do something nice for a child!

I will miss John and Jim and I am so appreciative to have known and learned from these amazing educators. I hope they’ve connected and that they are causing trouble and laughing together in a better place! And, I’m sure that John is united with our friend Anne Kofler.

These two photos were provided by retired art educator Frank Chin. Thank you Frank!

1998 – Haystack Mountain School of Crafts MAEA conference.

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