Former Wi-Hi chemistry teacher fondly remembered

Former Wicomico County High School teacher Henrietta Carrigan, who died last month, is being remembered for liveliness and humor in her classroom.

“She was one of a kind,” said Wi-Hi alumni Davis Ruark, former Wicomico County State’s Attorney and now Deputy District Attorney in the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Las Cruces, N.M.

“One day all of the students at Wi-Hi came pouring out of the science building. Of course, we were all wondering what happened. It turns out that Mrs. Carrigan accidentally poured phosphorous down the sink.

“As most of us know, phosphorus and water don’t mix well and smoke was billowing out of her room, the windows to her room and the doors to her building. Was Mrs. Carrigan embarrassed?  Not that I could see. While she laughed hard about it, she used it as a teaching lesson to demonstrate the dangers of certain chemicals and the need to be cautious, no matter who you are,” Ruark said.

Henrietta Luranie Jones Carrigan, who was born in Beaufort, S.C., on Jan. 17, 1931, spent 41 years in the classroom teaching mathematics and science in South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware and Maryland. Her career at Wi-Hi ended in 1975.

Educated in Charleston, Bennettsville and Florence, S.C., she graduated from Mather Academy in 1949, then earned a bachelor’s degree in pre-med from Claflin College in 1952, bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from South Carolina State University and master’s degree in chemical education from the University of Pennsylvania.

She also taught science and mathematics for the adult education classes in Darlington County, S.C., and was a science instructor at the University of Maryland Upward Bound program. She was a quality control chemist with various industries.

After her retirement, she tutored children in math at the Darlington County Library until her health declined.

She was a member of the Wesley Chapel UMC Hartsville, where she belonged to the United Methodist Church Women and other organizations. Among community affiliations were the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 210, the NAACP of Darlington, Claflin College National Alumni Association and the National Science Foundation.

She married Yancy Carrigan in 1983 and they had three children, Kimberly Stevenson of Far

Rockaway, N.Y., James Carrigan of Salisbury and Darrell Carrigan, who died in 2008. Her husband is also deceased. She had a granddaughter and three great-grandchildren.

Her obituary describes her as having a passion for education, and her former student, Wayne Smith, agreed.

“She was responsible for sending me on my career as a chemist,” he said.

“Oddly enough I ended up substituting teaching in the very same room. Was I that bad way back when? Loved her. She called me Charismo,” Smith said.

“She lit up the room with her smile, her laughter and her humor.  Going to her class was fun,” Ruark said.

“I had the great fortune of having Mrs. Carrigan for chemistry. Now to me chemistry was one of those mysterious sciences, since I blew up the only chemistry set I owned as a kid.  I believe that Mike Seidel may have been present,” he said.

“I still remember walking into Mrs. Carrigan’s chemistry class on my first day at Wi-Hi and how she lit up the

classroom with her smile and passion for the subject,” Seidel said.

“And nobody ever forgets her laugh. It was a class I looked forward to every single day, and some of the highlights didn’t involve mixing chemicals, but Mrs. Carrigan dealing with the occasional knucklehead. She had a lot of great sayings, but the one that sticks with me is, ‘You’ve got constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the mouth.’ We were lucky enough to also have her as our senior class advisor two years later, along with Mr. Squires.

“We chatted a couple of times a year over the phone. I last talked to her earlier this year and she hadn’t changed one bit. She leaves behind a great legacy of learning, not only in the public schools she taught in, but in the hundreds of hours she spent tutoring those of all ages in South Carolina,” Seidel said.

Ruark said always appreciated the way Carrigan “taught all of her students lessons about life, as well.”

“She was always there to listen to the bad as well as the good.  She would give advice, but never gave unsolicited advice. She was one of a kind,” he said.

“I have often missed Mrs. Carrigan but I will never forget her.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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