Jerome LePelletier, a pianist, former lawyer, English teacher and longtime principal of Old Orchard Beach High School, died July 23 after a long battle with cancer and heart problems. He was 84.

“It’s a tremendous loss for the whole community,” said Saco attorney Michael Ayotte, a longtime friend. “He was a remarkable man. He had such a presence about him. He had a flair about him … a way with words.”

Mr. LePelletier was an English teacher at Old Orchard Beach High School for eight years. He went on to serve as teaching principal for the last 17 years of his tenure. He retired in 1980.

He was remembered by former students and friends Tuesday as a unique and progressive teacher who inspired students to think globally and dream big.

Mary Tousignant, a former student and longtime friend, remembered having to read a book a week for his class. She did that for three school years. She said he challenged students to think openly about different philosophies, and assigned books on topics such as wave theory and the theory of relativity. Tousignant said she still reads three to four books a week.

“He had a great influence on my life and my education,” she said. “He was an amazing person. I think everyone in my class thought, Why is he choosing to teach in this little town?’ … He restored pianos, antique homes and antique furniture. He was sort of a renaissance man. He was just brilliant.”

Mr. LePelletier, a longtime resident of Old Orchard Beach, was an accomplished pianist and violinist. As a teenager, he had dreams of becoming a concert pianist. He once got the chance to perform in a Rachmaninoff piano concert, but his father withdrew his support. Instead, he encouraged Mr. LePelletier to attend law school – though he continued to play the piano and violin throughout his life.

Bob Couri, a friend since 1939 who attended fourth grade through high school with Mr. LePelletier, said they used to play duets together at local clubs. Couri remembered his friend Tuesday as an intelligent and gifted person who had a great sense of humor and adventure.

“His friendship meant everything to me,” Couri said. “We thought on the same plane. We used to laugh our heads off at certain things. We used to say our wives didn’t understand our humor. We would be laughing and they didn’t think it was so funny.”

Couri laughed about the year they decided to start a business developing photos. He said their business was booming until it ended abruptly.

“I knocked (many orders of pictures) on the floor and got them all mixed up,” Couri said. “We put them all together in a bushel basket with a sign that said, ‘Pick your own.’ His father called us two idiots. That was the end of our photography business. We had so many misadventures I could talk forever, I suppose.”

Mr. LePelletier was married to his wife, Marie Stella LePelletier, for 63 years. She died around 2010 after a struggle with Parkinson’s disease. They had no children. After retirement, the couple spent several years wintering in Florida. He spent summers restoring old buildings throughout southern Maine and dealing in antiques.

“You don’t meet too many people like him in your life,” said Jeff Thompson, deputy town clerk of Old Orchard Beach. “To me, he was truly special.”

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

[email protected]

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