The ‘Walk With a Purpose’ Instructor has Left, but Will Never Be Forgotten

January 6, 2017


by Len Lathrop

As the Alvirne JROTC cadets lined up on Wednesday, Dec. 28, outside of the Hudson VFW Post 5791, their eyes showed the sadness and confusion, and, of course, loss they were feeling.  As close to 500 family members, friends and students gathered together to offer a final goodbye, there was a numbness felt by everyone.

Michael Joseph Dubeau, a former first sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, was the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor at Alvirne High School.  Dubeau died unexpectedly Dec. 22 at the age of 53.

In just over a week since a remembrance page was started, 384 members exist and the number continues to climb; the impact of SMSgt. Dubeau can be felt but never truly measured.  More than 34,000 have been reached by the Facebook posting of this respected and loved man.  Memories will be what most will hold close as they continue in paths that SMSgt. had instilled in them.

Principal Steven Beals offered the following:  “In my five years at Alvirne, Mike Dubeau was our program ‘glue’ through the leadership changes of Colonel Kevin Grady, Colonel Bill Thomas and, most recently, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Cheetham.  Our cadets, faculty and community will miss him.  Best wishes to his wife and family.”

Deputy Group Commander, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Desrochers prepared on behalf of all cadets at Alvirne, the following statement at the request of this paper.

“All words, no matter their eloquence, seem like understatements when used to express the impact of SMSgt. Michael Dubeau.  Known to his cadets simply as “Sergeant,” his values were present in every action he took and every word he said.  He made an indelible impression on each person he met, even if through one encounter.  He had a way of transforming challenges into opportunities, silence into laughter, and conversations into lessons.  He had a way of helping people realize not only who they were but also who they could become.  His genuine pursuit of excellence in himself and others has inspired so many.  It has been said that heroes are those who give their lives to something greater than self.  His life embodies something –some immeasurable, indescribable combination of humor, wisdom and passion– that will be carried on by the countless lives he touched.  Sergeant, the cadets of Alvirne High School salute you as we press on, walking with a purpose, stronger than ever.”

While there are many more tribunes written than can be mentioned, Colonial Kevin Grady, who was the program commander at Alvirne, offered the following:  “Mike Dubeau was a gifted teacher and my closest friend.  His lasting legacy is visible in the way his students live their lives.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Mary-Ellen and his family.”

On a personal note, it has been an honor to know and work with the SMSgt. at many events at the high school from the Change of Command Ceremony, photographing the large group before the cadet ball, interviews and conversation following Washington trips and before every home Bronco football game that Mike announced with always a little extra excitement for the home team.  Many other brief passings involved just shaking hands with the SMSgt., which in itself was a great feeling.

Dubeau, the oldest of five children to Arthur and Gail (Laird) Dubeau, grew up in Woonsocket, R.I.  He joined the Air Force as an aircraft maintainer after graduating high school and soon found success as a military training instructor.

He would go on to become a recruiter, a career in which he remained for 12 years before retiring as a first sergeant after 25 years of service.

Dubeau’s family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, those interested make a donation to the Alvirne High School JROTC program.

Derek Desrocher, an AHS cadet’s father who happened to go on one of the Washington trips, offered the following photograph of SMSgt. in front of the Air Force wall, and that picture says it all about Mike Dubeau and the principle he honored and shared.