MESA, Ariz. – Sarah Bourgoin-Trottier still remembers how her father, a high school drama teacher, found ways for her to participate in school plays.
The experience was, she says, “so magical,” in large part because it helped her see her father through his students’ admiring eyes.
“It was a big deal” to be P. Michael Bourgoin’s daughter, Bourgoin-Trottier said. “It was like having Steven Spielberg as your father in Maine.”
Mike Bourgoin, as he was known, was an accomplished actor and director who appeared in many Maine theatrical productions and passed along what he knew about the arts to his drama students at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, where he taught for 25 years.
As word spread among his former students that he had died Wednesday in Arizona at the age of 66, they took to Facebook to express their sadness and share memories of their mentor.
They remembered how Bourgoin, formerly of Bowdoinham, believed in them, gave them second chances and inspired them to move outside their comfort zones.
“He was a father figure to so many,” Bourgoin-Trottier said. “Really, my brother and I are not his only children at all. He was a dad to so many of his students.”
Peter Bourgoin of Richlandtown, Pa., said his father taught him how to be a man through his words of wisdom, by teaching him how to think before he acts, and by never allowing negativity to linger for too long.
“When I screwed up, he would teach me and say ‘Don’t do that,’ but he wouldn’t dangle it above my head forever,” Bourgoin said. “Once it happened and it was learned from, it was over. And I had a lot of joy because of that.”
With his own children, Mike Bourgoin liked to go fishing, camping and hiking. Jane Hardy, Bourgoin’s partner and wife of 27 years, said he always dreamed of acting in New York, but ultimately decided that doing community theater in Maine and teaching drama to Maine students while raising a family here would give him the best of both worlds.
Bourgoin occasionally got a taste of what else was out there. He once shot a commercial with baseball great Ted Williams. He was in an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” and he made a movie called “Liberty, Maine” with actor Eric Close (who now plays an FBI agent on the TV show “Without a Trace”).
Bourgoin put together his own troupe, the Town Players, in Buxton.
Bourgoin’s pride and joy was the drama program at Bonny Eagle, which he got to develop from the bottom up. In his 25 years there, he taught drama and film history, and showed kids how to use video cameras.
“There weren’t very many schools in Maine at that time that had a teacher who devoted their teaching time especially to drama,” Jane Hardy said. “He really felt himself very lucky to be able to develop his own curriculum. And the kids, they loved him. He used to take the thespian club to New York every year to see a couple of plays.”
Neither of his own two children turned to the performing arts, but they say that going to see literally hundreds of plays with their father gave them a great appreciation for the arts, and for — as Peter Bourgoin put it — “the broad spectrum of life.”
“Enjoying one thing doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy another thing,” he said.
Bourgoin also loved sports, enjoyed cooking — his specialty was paella — and was known for his beautiful gardens filled with vegetables and tall sunflowers.
The gardens, his daughter said, were just another expression of his creativity.
“It’s kind of like what he’s always done,” Bourgoin-Trottier said. “He plants a seed and watches it grow and blossom. It’s kind of like how he was with his whole life.”
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: