Donald Dutil Jr., a popular music teacher and band director for Maine School Administrative District 55, who inspired a love of music in his students, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 68.

Mr. Dutil became a music teacher for MSAD 55 when it opened Sacopee Valley Junior-Senior High School in 1967. He taught music at elementary schools in Cornish, Hiram, Kezar Falls, Parsonsfield and Baldwin. He also taught at the high school and was the band director for many years.

He directed the annual Christmas and spring concerts, and led the high school’s marching band in the late 1970s and 1980s. Under his direction, the band won several championships and participated in the Maine State Parade and the Fryeburg Fair Parade for many years.

Mr. Dutil was remembered by former students Thursday as a great teacher, who brought out the best in his students. Many of his former students turned to Facebook this week to share stories and memories of him.

“He was a great man. He was an inspiration to the kids,” said Diane Day, a former student who teaches at Sacopee Valley High School. “He tried to teach me the clarinet,” she said, chuckling. “I wasn’t a great student.”

At the peak of his career, about one-quarter of the high school students were in the band. He retired in 1996.

“Don Dutil was more than a teacher and band director – he was a mentor and a friend,” said Jill Dehmer, a former student and business manager for MSAD 55. “Don gave the students that he worked with not only an appreciation for music, but for the community that we lived in and the school that we represented. He took a personal interest in each student that he worked with, often offering down-to-earth advice and a shoulder to lean on when needed.”

Carl Landry, superintendent of MSAD 55, said people often refer to the glory days of the music program as the “Don Dutil years.”

“Those words represent a powerful tribute to a true teaching legend,” Landry said. “I would like to express my deepest sympathies to Don’s family. He will be missed by the MSAD 55 community.”

Mr. Dutil also taught driver education for many years. He was also known for playing “Taps” and “Amazing Grace” on his trumpet during holiday ceremonies in the Sacopee Valley area.

He also played trumpet for the Fanfare Community Band, and directed the band for nearly 20 years. He stepped down in 2010 when his health began to decline.

Mr. Dutil had diabetes, which caused health problems such as blindness and kidney failure. He was on dialysis for the past seven years and had both legs amputated in the past year.

His wife, Linda Dutil, of Sweden, said he started to lose his eyesight eight years ago and has been blind for the past six years. Despite his health problems, he was determined to conduct the band. His wife said he was an inspiration to many people.

“He had so many things going against him and he had an upbeat personality and attitude,” his wife said. “I admired the way he was with people. He could entertain people. He would smile and make them happy. He had that incredible way of making people feel good about themselves.”

Mr. Dutil also had a passion for woodworking. His wife said he had a shop in Lovell called “Don’s Hobby Shoppe,” where he enjoyed making furniture.

“He loved working with his hands and building things,” his wife said.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com