PORTLAND – Whether she was in the classroom, on a 100-mile bike ride or simply taking a walk with her triplets, Annette Solebello always seemed to have a smile on her face.

That easygoing and positive nature served her well in life, especially in the past seven years as she battled cancer.

“You always had a warm feeling from her. She was one of those people who could walk into a room and light everyone up,” said a son, 29-year-old Marc Solebello of South Portland, whose siblings are Kyle Solebello of Westbrook and Marlana Solebello of Ashland, N.H.

“Even when she was diagnosed, she was never upset,” Marc Solebello said.

Ms. Solebello, known to her friends and loved ones as “Nettie,” died Tuesday at home at age 58.

She was an avid athlete and longtime teacher, first in Belfast, then in Cape Elizabeth, and finishing up her career in Falmouth.

She retired in 2005 so she and her partner, Lynn Sullivan, could travel together as she neared the end of her life. Ms. Solebello had been diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2003, following a colonoscopy when she was 50.

“She was really a trouper and never complained,” said Sullivan, Ms. Solebello’s partner of 24 years. “A friend once asked her, ‘Aren’t you angry? Don’t you ever ask, “why me?” ‘ She said, ‘Why not me?’ “

The couple met when Ms. Solebello was teaching in Belfast and Sullivan took a job as an X-ray technician at the local hospital, moving into an apartment across the street. Both women participated in recreational sports leagues.

“I saw her a lot with these three little kids,” Sullivan said. “She seemed really good with them. We just kind of clicked.”

Ms. Solebello shared custody of the children with her ex-husband and his new wife. Both families moved to southern Maine in the late 1980s.

Ms. Solebello enjoyed cycling and was a competitive basketball player, competing in the Senior Olympics.

She poured much of her energy into her teaching career.

“She lived and breathed it from September to June. She would be the first one at school and the last one to leave,” Sullivan said. “She was always trying to make herself better.”

In recent years, Ms. Solebello and Sullivan took many trips, including visits to Key West, Las Vegas and several spots in the Caribbean. Ms. Solebello fought the cancer every step of the way, participating in a variety of different treatments.

“It has really brought us closer together as a family, if that was possible,” Marc Solebello said. He and his siblings spent a lot of time with their mother at her home in recent months.

“My mom was one of those types of people who always put others first. She cared about family and friends and her students when she was teaching,” he said.

“Up until the end, she was always a loving, affectionate person.”

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

[email protected]