In March, longtime Orono High School boys soccer coach and teacher Larry Berthiaume learned he had pancreatic cancer and he addressed it with faculty members at the high school and middle school.
“He said ‘I don’t want any tears to be shed for me. I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me,” recalled Orono High School athletic director Mike Archer. “He accepted it. He wasn’t angry. He said ‘God has chosen me.’
“He gave us a lot of strength. He took care of us. He wanted to make sure everybody else was OK. It was amazing,” added Archer.
That was the type of person he was. He died on Saturday.
He had remarkable inner strength. He lived every minute to the fullest.
He also coached hockey at Orono several years ago and was a well-respected soccer referee.
“He had a great personality. He made everybody feel comfortable,” said UM-Fort Kent men’s soccer coach Bill Ashby. “He was a great guy and a great [technology] teacher. He had a passion for life and a passion for sports. His players adored him. He was a great mentor.”
Orono junior back Phil Benoit, a tri-captain next fall said Berthiaume was the type of coach “you’d play your heart out for.
“He was one of my favorite coaches [ever]. He was a great man,” said Benoit.
Benoit arrived at Orono High his sophomore year and, at the preseason meeting, Berthiaume made him and his father, Tom, feel welcome right away. He said he looked forward to coaching him.
“He wasn’t just our coach, he was our friend,” said Benoit.
As a coach, he had that ability to make practices meaningful, demanding and enjoyable.
“His practices weren’t easy but you always looked forward to them,” said Benoit. “He made them fun. And you knew that everything he did, every drill he had you do, was designed to make you better.”
Archer said Berthiaume “loved to break down film.”
Berthiaume identified their faults and would have drills devised for the next practice that would fix the problems.
“He was meticulous and so organized,” said Archer. “He was so thorough in everything he did. You never had to worry about a thing with Larry. You never had to worry how he ran his program, conducted business, treated his kids or how he dealt with parents.”
He was also honest and had a good wit.
“You never had to guess where he stood on things. He was very straightforward. But he did it in a respectful way,” said Archer.
“He was a wonderful person. He was very caring and always willing to help out. He was concerned about people,” said Orono girls soccer coach Cid Dyjak. “When he wasn’t coaching soccer, he was involved with referees [as a member of the Eastern Maine board] or promoting the game. He touched a lot of people. He always looked at the big picture as far as developing young people to be good people not just good athletes.”
David Pickering played on Berthiaume’s first two Orono teams and credited him with turning the soccer program around and elevating its status in Orono, which was a football town at the time.
“He was great. He was very positive and great influence on all of us,” said Pickering. “You always knew where you stood with him.”
A plaque in his honor has been placed behind the home bench. He will be sorely missed.