GRAND ISLE – John F. Dionne, farmer, general contractor, entrepreneur, promoter of French-Canadian language and culture, and advocate for economic and transportation development of the St. John Valley, died Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, after a prolonged illness. John was 81. He will be deeply missed by his wife of 55 years, Marguerite “Margot” M. Dionne; eight children, Francine of Deale, Md., and Washington, D.C., Georgette of Hamburg, N.Y., Jean Paul “John” of Bangor, Luce of Duluth, Minn., Luc and his partner, Barbara Cookson, of Bangor, Suzanne and husband, Joseph Mickiewicz, of Montclair, Va., Carmen of Topsham and Claire and husband, Tom Ledue, of Springvale; and 14 grandchildren, Margot, Andrew, Timothy, Christian, Sebastian, Julie, Danielle, Natalie, Catherine, Annie, Rachel, Dominique, Etienne and Francois. John is also survived by a brother, the Rev. Stanislaus Dionne of Tracadie-Sheila, New Brunswick; a sister, Laurette Bouchard of New York City; numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, John was predeceased by four sisters and seven brothers. John, born Jean Francois, was born Oct. 20, 1928, in Grand Isle, the youngest of 13 children of Georgianna (Lebel) and Paul Etienne Dionne. He attended local elementary and secondary schools, and in 1947 received a degree in commerce from St-Joseph de Memramcook College, near Moncton, New Brunswick. In 1950-1951 John pursued advanced studies in Boston, in business administration at a city college, and in music – voice – at New England Conservatory of Music. Many accomplishments marked John’s professional life. He always had a knack for entrepreneurship. At a young age he followed in his father’s footsteps as a potato and grain grower. He expanded the farm enterprise and delved into additional areas of agribusiness as a potato broker and shipper, owner of a potato starch factory, and importer and breeder of beef cattle. In the mid-1970s, until his retirement, John built a reputable business across the state of Maine as a general contractor of steel buildings for agricultural, industrial and municipal use. John had long been a strong advocate for the extension of Interstate 95 to Maine’s St. John Valley, which he believed vital for the region’s economic growth and development. He raised awareness and built support for this initiative by publishing articles, lobbying for federal and state highway funds, and bringing business leaders, private sector, and government representatives, public sector, together, in partnership, to dialogue and work on strategic planning. John was an active member of the association Les Dionne d’Amerique Inc. He organized and promoted the U.S. membership, served on the board of directors from 1991 to 1997, and in August 2008 was presented with the association’s highest honor, le Prix Meritas. John was also active in northern Maine’s Centre Francais de la Vallee St. Jean, Le Club Francais, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting Franco-American and Acadian language and culture in the St. John Valley. John was very involved and deeply committed to his church and community. He was a choir member of Mount Carmel and St. Gerard parishes, and member of Grand Isle Knights of Columbus and Grand Isle Historical Society. In March 2009, the Maine State Legislature presented John with a plaque and official expression of sentiment in recognition of his many contributions toward economic development of the St. John Valley and the state of Maine. A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, at St. Gerard Church, Grand Isle. Family and friends may call 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Monday and 9:30 a.m. until time of service Tuesday at Lajoie-Daigle Funeral Home, 114 10th Ave., Madawaska. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in John’s memory to Le Club Francais, P.O. Box 266, Fort Kent, ME 04743. Arrangements have been entrusted to Lajoie Funeral Home and Cremation Services, LLC.