John Caldwell was born in Grand Falls on August 14, 1906, to Robert and Minnie (Willet) Caldwell. His father was a farmer and rafter, and his mother was a Salvation Army midwife and practical nurse, operating the first area hospital in her home. His paternal grandparents were from Ireland; and after emigrating to Canada, they eventually settled in Grand Falls. John was one of seven siblings, three of whom died in childhood. He graduated from the Provincial Normal School in 1927 with a First Class Superior License which, through home study, he later upgraded to a Grammar School License.
In 1937 through attendance at UNB summer schools he earned a B.A. degree. During 1927-1928 he taught in Salmonhurst (near New Denmark) after which he went first to Boston and then New York where he worked in subway construction. Returning to New Brunswick in 1929, he taught at the Grand Falls Grade School until 1940. Retiring from the Canadian Army after six years of service during which time he served as a training officer for crack military units, he retired with the rank of Captain and resumed his teaching career, serving as principal of the Grand Falls Grade School during 1946-1953 and becoming involved in militia and cadet movements. He then became principal of the Grand Falls Composite High School, retiring in 1966. This school possessed facilities for vocational education, a fact of which he was very proud, stating, on the occasion of his retirement, that it provided a much needed additional avenue of education for those not interested in an academic career.
In 1977 Grand Falls high school was renamed the John Caldwell School in his honor, and in October of that year a testimonial banquet was held at which time the John Caldwell Scholarship Fund was established with the purpose of awarding scholarships to needy and worthy students. While teaching there, he made arrangements for the teaching of Grade 13 with the time for so doing being found outside regular school hours on Saturdays and during Christmas and Easter holidays. Considered the equivalent of first-year university, students in this program wrote UNB exams. Following official retirement, he taught Grades 11 and 12 at St. André for a year-and-a-half.
At Christmas 1968, John Caldwell was asked by the New Brunswick Department of Education to organise adult education classes in several north-western communities, including, among others, the communities of St. Basile, Baker Brook, St. Quentin, Kedgwick and Hartland. Proud of his Irish heritage, his major journey - apart from Boston and New York - was to Ireland to visit the land of his paternal ancestors. In retirement gardening, amateur radio and fishing became very important parts of his life. In 1967 with three other residents of his home community, he was awarded a Centennial Medal. He died on March 11, 1986. Prior to his death one of his students wrote these words: "On a personal level, I have never taken the opportunity to thank you for encouraging me to go on to McGill and for facilitating my acceptance and scholarship award. Your confidence in me and your philosophy to be the best the best one could be have remained with me all these years.
"So after 20 years, thank you, Mr. Caldwell for all those exciting biology classes, for the countless 'Latin classes' after regular school hours and for making all the 'extra-curricular trips' possible for me."
John Caldwell exemplifies the selfless example of so many New Brunswick educators who over the years dedicate their lives to the education of the Province's young people.