LEWISTON — Diane Robitaille got to see firsthand the impact she'd had on her community and her students back in 2005.
A fundraising spaghetti supper that summer, designed to help pay medical bills toward a kidney transplant, drew thousands — friends from the community, former St. Dom's students and family.
"And she looked around and said, 'This is all for me?'" said sister Linda Gelinas. "She didn't understand it because she was just a teacher. But look at the legacy she left."
Robitaille died overnight Wednesday. She was 58.
Robitaille had been the accounting, business and computer teacher at St. Dominic's Regional High School for 33 years. She was a 1969 St. Dom's graduate and a former St. Dom's cheerleader who called the school her home. She came back to the school in 1977, working as a teacher and the school's cheerleading coach.
"It was in her blood," said sister Marlene Godin. "She loved the school and she loved being a teacher there."
Robitaille was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 21, soon after her first son was born. She managed the disease for years, but it took a toll on her body and led ultimately to kidney failure.
A niece donated a kidney and friends and students stepped forward to help pay her medical bills.
"I remember these three big guys drove up all night from Boston," Gelinas said. "They said they had to, because it was Mrs. Robi. They found out she needed help and they just came."
Joline Girard, assistant principal at St. Dom's, said Robitaille was always a spirited presence at the school.
"She was always smiling," Girard said. "And when she smiled, her face just lit up. You always felt like she was glad to see you."
She continued teaching after her transplant but reduced her class load.
Gelinas said she began to feel poorly last fall, after a trip to Florida. Doctors discovered her new kidney had been infected, and she spent all of December in a Boston hospital fighting the virus.
She returned to Lewiston, but still didn't feel good. She reduced her class load again — teaching classes for keyboarding and programming — until the school year ended.
"But she kept up on it, working with her kids even when she was in the hospital," Gelinas said. "She took my laptop with her to Boston and she was still working, looking at her kids projects and helping them out."
Guy Lemlin, 17, was one of Robitaille's students last year.
"The thing I loved about her was she always helped," said Lemlin, a St. Dom's senior this year. "You walked into her classroom, and there was this nice woman. She was loving and caring and she really tried to help if you didn't understand."
She'd made plans to visit her daughter-in-law's day care Wednesday afternoon, but didn't show up. Her son went to her Ferry Road home about noon Wednesday, and found her still in bed from the night before.
"It was peaceful," Gelinas said. "She was beautiful and calm."
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Fortin Funeral Group in Lewiston.