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Popular Stevens High School Teacher, 58, Dies of Infection in Puerto Rico

Claremont — Linda Beaulieu, a longtime Stevens High School teacher who was wildly popular with her students and widely respected by her colleagues, died unexpectedly Thursday while visiting Puerto Rico. She was 58.

Beaulieu, who taught English and journalism at Stevens for about 30 years, died from a fast-moving infection, her sister said yesterday.

Her death has shocked many in the Claremont community who remembered her as a great friend and a dedicated and gifted teacher who was committed to challenging every student in her classroom.

“She is a legend,” said Carol Thebarge, a longtime Stevens High substitute. “She expected top quality from all her students and she got it.” Thebarge said her Facebook page has been “deluged” with tributes in Beaulieu’s memory.

“A lot of kids told me, I would not have graduated without her,” she said.

Zach Thomas, a 2008 Stevens High School graduate, will graduate from college next spring, but the moment will be bittersweet. He was hoping Beaulieu, his journalism teacher at Stevens, would be there to see him accept his diploma.

“When she saw me, should used to tell me, ‘I have this green dress and I want to wear it to your graduation,’ ” Thomas said yesterday. “Now I won’t get to see the green dress. And she won’t be there for the best moment of my life.”

For Thomas, Beaulieu’s influence began during his senior year in her journalism class. “I was not the most scholarly student,” he said, recalling how he had a habit of making jokes in class. “One day, she called me out in front of the class. She said, ‘You have so much potential. You can do great things. But nobody believed in you before,’ ” he said. “I never heard that before.”

The times when he thought finishing school was not worth the effort because of a poor test score, Thomas said, Beaulieu helped him look past it and focus on doing better the next time. And she encouraged him when he decided to attend community college then transfer to Plymouth State University.

“She was my fire for school,” Thomas said.

Longtime teacher Gary Perron, who came to Stevens at the same time Beaulieu did, said she was highly regarded for being able to motivate her students to do better than they thought possible.

“She really worked hard for all of her students, especially those who were at a disadvantage,” said Perron.

“She really supported kids who needed help,” said senior Dan Seaman. “There were a lot of students at Stevens who graduated on time because of her.”

Scott Pope, an engineering teacher at the Sugar River Technical Center, taught with Beaulieu for 25 years. He said the two became close.

“She was a good friend throughout my career and just a tremendous supporter of all the kids at Stevens,” he said.

Beaulieu also taught tech English, which addresses the language of technical manuals.

“She taught them to understand how English could be useful in their lives,” Pope said. “And she was always pushing students to do better. She would tell them, ‘You’re not fooling me. I know you can do better.’ ”

When Pope donated a kidney to his wife, Tracy, last May, Beaulieu paid him a visit.

“She came up to the hospital and spent about an hour with me,” he said.

“This really hurts,” he said. “It is a tremendous loss.”

Beaulieu’s sister, Mary Lamarre Gardner, of Bradford, Vt., said she showed a love for learning and teaching early on.

“She loved teaching. It was her life,” Gardner said. “I’m six years younger than my sister and when I started school, I knew how to read books because of her.”

Beaulieu remained interested and involved in the lives of many of her students after they graduated.

Gardner and Beaulieu were in Florida together a couple of years ago when Beaulieu insisted on taking the time to visit with a former student who had written her.

“He told her he was thinking of going back to college and she encouraged him,” Gardner said. “I thought that was awesome she got together with him.”

Beaulieu was Nick Koloski’s English teacher when he attended Stevens in the mid-1990s. Koloski, now a Claremont city councilor, said she straightened out more than one student who had gotten off track.

“She could definitely get you back on the right path,” he said.

Koloski recalled reading The Great Gatsby in Beaulieu’s class and getting only a C-plus on his report because of his penchant for doing things at the last minute.

Years later, Koloski, who has helped direct and produce several movies, called Beaulieu to tell her that he had just interviewed the actor Scott Wilson, who played the garage owner who shot Robert Redford’s title character to death in the 1974 movie version of The Great Gatsby.

“He (Wilson) thought it was funny that I called her, and she thought it was funny to get the call,” Koloski said.

Speaking at career day one year, Koloski recalled how Beaulieu told him she was “always proud of me.”

“She played a pivotal role in my life.”

When students return to class tomorrow, Pope said, the teacher taking over for Beaulieu will have “big shoes to fill.” But he said he hopes the students will work just as hard.

“They should do their best because that is what Linda would expect them to do,” he said.

“They can honor Linda by doing that. I believe they will.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.