A few days shy of her 100th birthday, Ruth May Scougale wasted no time talking about a health regimen or other secrets to a long life. Forty-two years after retiring, she was more interested in sharing memories of the students she taught at Everett High and later at Cascade High School.
And all these years later, they remember her — a fair-minded teacher with high standards, strong opinions and a distinct Australian accent.
“She was pretty cool, and that’s not an adjective used for many faculty at that time,” said Chuck Close, an internationally renowned artist and 1958 graduate of Everett High. Close, whose studio is in New York, spoke Thursday from Miami.
Close’s high school drawings fill the 1957 edition of the Nesika, the Everett High annual, which Scougale showed her visitors Wednesday. “Chuck designed this,” said Scougale, who was yearbook adviser. “He had a wry sense of humor,” she said, pointing to the artist’s lighthearted sketches.
Former Herald publisher Larry Hanson, who graduated from Everett High in 1956, recalled working with Scougale on the Kodak student newspaper. “She expected a lot of her students,” he said.
His children, Jeff and Wendy Hanson, were in Scougale’s classes at Cascade, where she taught English, Latin and French. “They had exactly the same opinions many years later. She cared about the work and cared about the students,” Hanson said.
A native of Brisbane, Australia, Scougale was born March 17, 1919. This St. Patrick’s Day, she’ll celebrate her 100th birthday at Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood, where she lives near the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Helen and Jerry Smith. She also has a son, Gordon Scougale.
An only child, Ruth May Evans was the 1935 valedictorian at Somerville House, a school for girls in Brisbane. She earned an English degree and education credentials at Queensland University.
On her bedside table, she keeps a picture of herself, as a young bride, with her husband Myron Scougale. He died in 2003. He was a mid-year 1937 graduate of Everett High. He served in the U.S. Army at Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Brisbane headquarters and in the Signal Intelligence Service, a code-breaking division during World War II.
They were married in Brisbane in 1944. Scougale was already a mother in 1946 when she voyaged to San Francisco aboard the SS Mariposa with other war brides. In 1951, she began her teaching career in Everett. She belonged to the International Wives Club and the American Association of University Women.
Myron Scougale spent his career in banking. He worked for Everett First National Bank, Seafirst and later Bank of America.
Larry O’Donnell, a local historian and retired school administrator, was an Everett High student when Scougale taught there, but he wasn’t in her classes. “She had such a great reputation as a teacher. Kids never forgot her,” said O’Donnell, a 1955 Everett High graduate.
Scougale left Everett High in the fall of 1960 to be part of the first crop of Cascade teachers. But Cascade’s new building wasn’t finished. Sophomores, and Scougale, instead went to Evergreen Middle School that fall. She began teaching at Cascade in 1961. The school’s first principal was A.B. “Bert” Colburn.
O’Donnell, a counselor and vice principal at Cascade in the 1960s, especially remembers Scougale’s honors English program. “She knew how to challenge those kids,” he said. “No one ever accused her of being unfair. She was straightforward and forthright.”
As a teacher, Scougale said, “I was more bark than bite.”
At The Herald, Hanson would sometimes get calls from Scougale pointing out grammatical errors in the paper, or she’d drop off newspapers marked with red pen. “It was not so subtle, but she was right,” he said.
When his class celebrated its 60th reunion, Hanson brought Scougale to the party. “She was the hit of the reunion. She’s so sharp, and her memory is so good,” he said.
On Wednesday, she showed a favorite Nesika, the 1960 edition, with its Space Age theme. She talked about classes she planned, including one centered on China after President Richard Nixon visited the long-closed communist country. “I brought in Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ — and no one complained,” she said.
When she took a group of students to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, “the boys camped,” she said.
“You felt she was on your side against the administration,” said Close, adding that Scougale was supportive when other school officials told him he couldn’t handle tough math and science classes.
Scougale has traveled back to Australia many times. At almost 90, “I got my Australian citizenship back,” she said. As a new teacher in the McCarthy era, she said she had to “sign an oath of allegiance” to the United States.
Today, she watches tennis and the Mariners on TV, does crossword puzzles and visits with family.
“I’ve had a most happy and blessed life,” she said. “You’ve got to have focus in life, and keep your feet on the ground.”
Birthday wishes may be mailed to Ruth May Scougale, c/o Helen Scougale Smith, 207 Iverson Road, Camano Island, WA 98282.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.