Don Eldon Coates


Don Eldon Coates, 97, died peacefully in his sleep on Dec. 23, 2018, at Dirigo Pines Retirement Community in Orono. Don was born in Hillview, Ill., the son of Lloyd Eldon and Lottie Jane (Bridgewater) Coates.

Energetic and outgoing, Don was voted most popular in his senior year at Carrollton High School, Carrollton, Ill., a prediction that rang true throughout his life. He was known for his generous and positive spirit as well as his genuine interest in people and his proclivity for sports. Don was an avid Cardinals fan and loved listening to the ballgames and teasing and talking baseball with friends. He entered Illinois College, Jacksonville, in 1939 to study business administration. While at Illinois College he was a four-letter athlete and was inducted into the Illinois College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016, a point of pride.

In 1943, Don’s college enrollment was interrupted by WWII and the draft. A master sergeant in the Army, Don was stationed in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. It was there that he met Alida Shute from Belfast, who was serving in the Civil Service. They were married on June 5, 1944, in Belfast. Once discharged from the Army, Don returned to Illinois to complete his education and in 1947 moved to Northeast Harbor to teach and coach at Gilman High School. From 1955-1963, he served as principal of Mount Desert High School (MDHS). Don helped establish the Northeast Harbor Library (NEH) Scholarship Program and served as a trustee of the NEH Library from 1951 to 1983 and is an honorary trustee and member of its corporation board. The Don E. Coates Distinguished Service Award was established in his honor by the Library Scholarship Committee and Board of Trustees in 2010.

While a teacher and principal, Don spent summers working with Charles K. Savage at the Asticou Inn and the Jordan Pond House. An association and friendship that was extremely important to both Don and Alida and their family. In 1984, he was elected by the town of Mount Desert as Asticou Terraces trustee and was a member of the Asticou Azalea Garden Committee, a board director and later life director of the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve. He also served as clerk for the Northeast Harbor Club and was a member of the Union Church.

Don received both a master’s degree and certificate of advanced study in education from the University of Maine. In 1964, he was appointed superintendent of Orono and Veazie schools and moved to the University of Maine in 1972 as assistant dean of the College of Education. Among his many teaching and administrative duties was serving as director of student teachers, which he loved. He also served as interim dean of the college. He retired from the university in 1982 and remained active in community, school and university activities until his death. He was a 25 year member of the Orono-Old Town Kiwanis Club, a member of the Church of Universal Fellowship, the Black Bear Club and the Retired Teachers Association.

Don loved being with friends and family, telling a good story, building community and having fun. He was predeceased by his wife of 73 years, Alida Shute Coates; sister Kathleen Coates Becker and grandson, Scott A. Painter. Surviving are his sister Lavone Coates Lee (99); daughter, Pam Coates Painter and husband, Mike; grandchildren, Timothy, Jill and Matthew; daughter, Jan Coates; sister-in-law, Dorothy Dalton Shute; and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Don’s life will be held Saturday, Feb. 9, at 11 a.m. at the Church of Universal Fellowship, 82 Main St., Orono, with the Rev. Lorna Grenfell officiating. The family invites relatives and friends to share conversation and refreshments in the Parish Hall following the service. A service of remembrance will also be held in the Somesville Union Meeting House in the late summer. Interment will be at Forest Hill Cemetery, Northeast Harbor.

Memorial gifts may be made to Island Readers & Writers, P.O. Box 227, Mount Desert, ME 04660 and the Orono–Old Town Kiwanis Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 515, Orono, ME 04473. and the Illinois College Varsity Club, 1101 West College Ave., Jacksonville, IL 62650. Condolences to the family may be expressed at


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