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Melvin J. Labbe

MADAWASKA - Melvin J. Labbe said goodbye to his loved ones Sept. 3, 2013, at the age of 77. He was born Aug. 14, 1936, in Wallagrass. He was the son of Lucien and Pauline Labbe of Wallagrass.

An alumnus of Fort Kent Normal School and Farmington State College, Mel also earned a Masters and an Advanced Degree from UMO. With an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, Mel studied abroad at University College in Ireland, Whitelands College in England, and Le Centre International D'Etude Pedagogiques in Paris, France. He began a career in education as a teacher in Madawaska, was a principal in Frenchville and St. Agatha, and returned to Madawaska where he served as principal, curriculum coordinator, assistant superintendent, and finally superintendent of schools. Mel held an array of local and state leadership positions in a continual quest for excellence in education. He demonstrated that he could wear his administrative hat almost inconspicuously and yet exert authority and leadership effectively while remaining a nice guy. After his retirement, he served as interim superintendent in Grand Isle and as director and supervisor of student teachers from UMFK, he gifted the young teachers with his wealth of knowledge and experiences.

Mel's unselfish, energized involvement in community service was equally impressive. He was an active leader for the UMFK Alumni Assoc. and the UMFK Board of Directors. Mel was president of the Northern Maine Medical Center Board of Trustees, president and treasurer of the Madawaska Lions Club and also held offices for the Madawaska Historical Society, the Madawaska Public Library, and the Madawaska Bicentennial Committee. A staunch lover of baseball and softball, Mel was president several times for both the Fort Kent and Madawaska Softball Leagues, and it must be included that he was a diehard Red Sox fan!

As a young man, Mel was a member of the Maine Army National Guard in Fort Kent. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, became a medical radiology technician while at Gunter AFB in Alabama, and displayed exemplary service while at Goose Bay AFB in Labrador and Walker AFB in Roswell, N.M.

Later in life, Mel became a devoted and valued member of the Thomas O. Cyr American Legion Post in Madawaska where he served as 1st and 2nd vice-commander and Americanism Officer. He was also the adjutant for the Madawaska Post, the Northern Aroostook County Council, and District 7. As a patriot and scholar of military history, Mel toured the World War I and World War II historical sites in France, Belgium, and Luxemburg.

Mel deservingly received many prestigious awards, some of which are: Legionnaire of the Year -- Post 147; the Royal Canadian Legion Friendship Award; UMFK Distinguished Service Award; UMFK Outstanding Alumni Award; Outstanding Young Man of America; Outstanding Student Alumni Award from Fort Kent Normal School; and an Outstanding Airman Award while at Goose Bay Air Force Base, Labrador. Mel also received Most Valuable Player Awards from the Madawaska and the Fort Kent Softball Leagues.

Mel may have had an illustrious career, but he remained a quiet, humble, unpretentious man whose primary focus was love for his family. Mel married Rena Sutherland in 1961 and in his later years, he and Rena enjoyed a more leisurely life at their cottage in Eagle Lake, absorbing magnificent sunsets and haunting cries of loons. Mel also took much pleasure playing golf, traveling to visit his two daughters, and was totally enchanted in being a gentle, genial, generous "Pepere"-- qualities he had exercised all his life.

Mel will be dearly missed by his wife, Rena of 52 years; his two daughters, Tammy and her husband, Daniel Watts, of Pleasanton, Calif., and Sherri and her husband, Robert Ballou, of Saunderstown, R.I.; his grandchildren, Brian and Justin Watts and Allyson and Andrew Murray; his twin sisters, Patricia and her husband, Roger Fournier, of Wallagrass and Nancy and her husband, Donald Soucy, of Plainville, Conn.; his sister-in-law, Betty and her husband, Melford Pelletier; sister-in-law, Joyce Saucier; as well as several nieces and nephews.

Mel was predeceased by his brother-in-law, Maurice Saucier; and his parents, Lucien and Pauline Labbe.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 6, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Family and friends may call 8:30-10:30 a.m. Friday, at Lajoie Funeral Home. Interment will be held at Caribou Veteran's Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in Melvin's memory may be made to the , 383 US Route1, Suite 2C, Scarborough, ME 04074. For online condolences, please visit www.lajoiefuneralhome.com.

Published in BDN Maine on Sept. 4, 2013
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