Leander A. Maes: A brother and a teacher remembered

SAUGUS — It's been a month since Belmonte Middle School teacher Leander A. Maes died unexpectedly. And his brother is still amazed at the reverberations his death left in the town.

"The wake lasted 6½ hours," musician Brian Maes said. "We were amazed. And I don't think I ever heard the words 'your brother changed my life' as often as I heard them that night."

And when the funeral process passed the middle school, Principal Myra Monto had all her students outside, waving flags "from all different countries," Brian Maes said.

Leander Maes was named after his grandfather, and as a child he shortened it to "Lee," and that's how he was known.

"But as he got older," Maes said, "he embraced it more and more."

That's because his brother always had an affinity for history — the subject he taught to Belmonte eighth graders for 21 years.

"I don't know what got him into history, but it started at a very young age. He had an interest about politicians, and World War II and other aspects of world history in general.

"It also came out in his love of sports," Maes said, noting that his brother was a tennis coach in Saugus for many years. "He always knew what year someone was with a team, who scored how many goals and in what year, stuff like that. He had a great knack for categorization."

Words and public speaking came naturally to Leander Maes. 

"It probably runs in the family," his brother said. Their mother, Jeanette, is a prominent local poet who is president of the Massachusetts State Poetry Society.

"As kids, we got into the Marvel Comics, and I think that brought out his vocabulary," Maes said. "And when we'd play street hockey, he'd announce the game as it was going on."

Though Leander Maes wasn't a musician, he was very much into music. And in a curious sort of way, it's what gave Brian Maes the impetus to pursue a life of music. Among other things, Brian Maes has performed at Lynn City Hall in his rock opera, "The Devil and Billy Shakes," and has also played in bands alongside musicians such as Lynn's Barry Goudreau and the late Sib Hashian, both formerly with the band "Boston."

"I played the trumpet in the high school band," said Brian Maes. "But then I started listening to the music that Lee was listening to, and I got turned on to it. I started dabbling with keyboards too. I became a fan of the music he listened to, and drifted from the band to progressive rock."

And, said Brian, "he was supportive of everything I did. He was the scholarly one. I was the musician. But he went to so many gigs. My wife (MaryAnn) is a musician too, and he was always supportive of her. My daughter has sung the anthem at a lot of local sporting events, and he was always there."

Brian said Leander "was a great big brother. He was two years older than me, and he was always kind of like my hero. I loved it when people said 'hey, you're Lee's brother.'"

Leander Maes knew he wanted to be a teacher, but when he got out of Merrimack in 1977, teaching jobs up here were hard to come by.

"So he went to Mexico City (The American School) for three years and then came back, and eventually landed in Saugus."

The family grew up in Lynnhurst, on the Lynn/Saugus line, "and we always had friends from Saugus we hung out with, and friends from Lynn. And he loved teaching. It was a very personal thing for him. 

"The things people said to us at the wake, how much he cared for his students ...we were overwhelmed," Brian Maes said.


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