Tony Viehmann

George “Tony” Viehmann Jr., a beloved teacher and counselor in the Kennebunk schools who was known for his lessons on kindness and friendship, died on May 22. He was 84.

Mr. Viehmann was also a popular counselor for the Kennebunk Beach Improvement Association, which offers enrichment and recreation programs for summer visitors and local youth.

He was remembered as a kind, compassionate person who had a tremendous impact on young people’s lives.

Mr. Viehmann was a teacher and counselor for Regional School Unit 21, which serves Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel. He joined the staff in 1980 at Kennebunk High School.

His wife, Nancy, said Friday that he had a quiet and peaceful nature and lit up whenever kids were around. She said he drew kids in by simply asking a question to get them thinking or playing a game he invented.

“He could really relate well to kids who might be a little bit marginal,” his wife said. “He could see a child who may not be behaving very well, but he really liked that student. There was one student who pulled a urinal off the wall at school and he said, ‘But, he was a really good kid. I really liked him.’ ”

His wife shared another story of a student who was escorted out of school in handcuffs by police.

“He said, ‘She was a real good kid. When the police had her, I walked by her side so the other students wouldn’t see she was in handcuffs.’ He really had this special ability to relate to all.”

A highlight of his career was establishing a leadership-in-action class at the high school, which had a partnership with Outward Bound.

“At the schools, he never went in the teacher’s room at recess. He was always out playing basketball with the kids. He had a very strong impact on the kids,” his wife said.

Mr. Viehmann went on to teach and provide counseling services at several schools in RSU 21. He finished his career at Sea Road School, which serves third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students. He retired in 2006.

His wife recalled a weekly guidance class, where he taught kids about kindness and friendship and took up issues such as bullying.

“One time he had kids keep a kindness journal,” she said. “He asked them each week to write one thing they did that they thought was kind. One girl raised her hand and said, ‘I have 12. Can I tell you what they are?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ He loved the exuberance of kids and the unfiltered way they would relate. He really knew how to zero in.”

Another hallmark of his life was working as a counselor for the Kennebunk Beach Improvement Association. He taught classes on woodworking and leather crafting, and taught kids about seals, dolphins and whales. He also taught kids to play basketball.

“Any course that Tony taught would fill right up,” his wife said. “A parent one time said, ‘Tony could teach kids how to brush their teeth and they would sign up.’ He just had that way about him.”

“Tony has been a cornerstone of KBIA and our local community for decades,” said Mimi Fox, executive director of the association. “Many generations of students have benefitted from his kindness, humor, knowledge, patience, and passion for the seaside. Tony’s impact is deeply felt – for some, he was the reason they stayed in school while for others, he was an inspiration to become a teacher in their own right.”

Mr. Viehmann was a fixture at Cape Porpoise Harbor. He was often seen rowing his peapod boat with his wife and golden retriever, Rosa, who died last summer.

He also did woodcarving and writing. He was known for his intricate whale carvings, which he sold at fairs and local art galleries.

In retirement, Mr. Viehmann wrote four children’s books. The first, “The Shenanigans of Slim Pickins,” has sold several thousand copies throughout the Kennebunkport area, Portland and Boston.

“We were sitting on the wall at Kennebunk Beach eating a submarine sandwich when a seagull swooped down and took it and dropped it on the beach in front of us and proceeded to eat it,” his wife said. “Based on that, he wrote his first book. It’s still very popular.”

Mr. Viehmann wrote and illustrated, “Whales are Amazing … Just Like You,” and “Mister Gull Meets Lady Lobster,” a book about an unlikely friendship. His wife said his books promoted messages of kindness, compassion and understanding of people’s differences.

He had three children. He and his wife were married for 46 years and had lived in Cape Porpoise since 1980.

She reminisced about meeting him. She said it was a Tuesday night at a bar in Boston. They had both attended a Boston Pops concert at the Esplanade and ducked into the bar to escape the rain.

“The woman I went with ordered us beer. She she met someone she knew and dropped me like a hot potato. I turned around to the person behind me and said hi. It was Tony,” his wife said. “If it hadn’t rained, we never would have met. We had a really good life together.”

Mr. Viehmann’s health began to decline in recent months. His wife said after several tests, he was diagnosed with a rare, progressive pulmonary disease.

“There’s a huge void of not having him here,” she said.

A full obituary is scheduled to appear in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

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