SOUTH PORTLAND — David Soule, a popular special-education teacher at South Portland schools, who advocated for his students and fought tirelessly for environmental issues, died on Monday. He was 62.
Mr. Soule never planned to become a teacher. At age 3, he was struck by a car near his home and sustained a severe spinal cord injury and extensive damage to his kidneys. He spent over six months in the hospital. At the time, doctors had little hope he would walk again. He proved them wrong.
As a youngster, he couldn’t run or play sports, but he found solace in the outdoors and enjoyed catching snakes, frogs and pollywogs.
He attended Holy Cross Grammar School and graduated from South Portland High in 1968.
Soon after graduating from the University of Southern Maine, he got a job teaching fourth grade at Holy Cross.
His brother Chris Soule, who is 15 years younger than him, was a student in his class.
“I remember … he was an incredibly hands-on teacher,” his brother said. “I remember having a really difficult time with multiplication. He sat down with me. He didn’t treat me any different. He had a way about him that you could tell everything was going to be OK. Students have always loved him.”
Mr. Soule taught at Holy Cross for seven years and worked briefly at Small Elementary School. He went on to teach special education at Mahoney Middle School and later at South Portland High School.
Chris Soule spoke nonstop Wednesday about his older brother – with pride and admiration of his success as a teacher and the tremendous impact he had on students and others.
Mr. Soule, who walked with crutches or canes for most of his life, inspired his students to overcome the challenges they faced in life.
“That’s where he shined,” his brother said. “It really gave him a sense of purpose and meaning. … He wanted to help students go as far as they could. He wanted to show them they were no different than other students.”
Mr. Soule retired about 10 years ago.
He was a lifelong resident of South Portland. He was remembered by family and friends this week as a man who overcame many physical limitations and lived life to its fullest. He was a gifted artist and an adventurist. He had a passion for skiing and was active with Maine Handicapped Skiing. He hiked Mount Washington and Bald Face Mountain. He traveled to Connemara, Ireland, where he researched his family history.
He was instrumental in the creation of the Maine Irish Heritage Center at St. Dominic’s Church.
“He worked doggedly on that. That was really his baby,” his brother said.
In Nov. 2011, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In February, his health began to decline. He died at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House with his family and friends by his side.
“To see him go through what he went though was heartbreaking,” his brother said.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]