Friday, February 10, 2006

Biddeford legend 'Babe' Dutremble dies

Portland Press Herald

Biddeford has lost its foremost political leader, the man they simply called "Babe."

Lucien A. Dutremble, the legendary Democrat who spent most of six decades in public office, died on Tuesday at his home. At the age of 83, he was still serving as a York County commissioner.

"Our father was a great role model for all five boys and for his grandchildren afterwards," said one of his five sons, Dennis "Duke" Dutremble. "He loved public service and he was very compassionate. Family was very important to him."

Dennis Dutremble said his father collapsed at home Tuesday morning and, although he apparently was in good health, may have died of a heart attack.

Following the ideals of Franklin Roosevelt, Dutremble was first elected as a York County commissioner in the 1950s and ended up holding just about every public office in Biddeford.

He served multiple terms as mayor, city councilor, state representative and county commissioner.

Dutremble never lost an election, his family said.

"We would ride around town and everybody would wave. Everybody knew him," Dennis Dutremble said.

Diagnosed with cancer in the late 1990s, Lucien Dutremble was told by doctors at one point that he had a month to live. But he regained his health, stayed active in politics and faithfully attended the games and concerts of his grandchildren. He spent every day with his wife, Cecile Dubreuil Dutremble.

Dutremble planned to retire from public office in November, when his term as county commissioner was to expire. He participated in his last commissioner's meeting Monday night.

"Babe was telling everybody how great it was to be on the board," said Commissioner Marc Meserve of Saco.

Meserve said he will remember Dutremble as a genuine leader who cared deeply for the people of his home city.

"He is a legend in his own way," Meserve said. "And I don't think he even realized how much that was true."

Lucien Dutremble was the best-known figure in a large family.

His son Dennis was the first Franco-American to become state Senate president and fell just short in a run for Congress in 1994.

Lucien's late brother, Richard, was York County sheriff from 1963 to 1977.

When Dutremble was a boy, his father, a police officer, was killed on duty. Dutremble, one of 13 children, left school when he was in eighth grade to work at a commercial bakery. He then worked in textile mills, ran a neighborhood grocery store and became involved in politics.

He was steeped in the Franco culture of Biddeford, and always spoke French more comfortably than English. In politics, his style was quiet, polite and straightforward.

Before starting Tuesday night's City Council meeting, Biddeford Mayor Wallace Nutting honored Dutremble. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, issued a statement upon learning of his death.

"Today, York County lost a devoted friend and loyal public servant," Collins said.

A wake will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Hope Memorial Chapel in Biddeford. The funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at St. Joseph's Church in Biddeford.
Trevor Maxwell

Copyright © 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.