FIle photo from 2003 of Judge Eugene Beaulieu (left) instructing then-fourth-graders Jake Marsh (center) and Sisco Montes from the Weatherbee School in Hampden on how to play the part of a federal judge. Credit: Kevin Bennett | File

Judge Eugene Beaulieu once took the unusual step of overturning a decision that would have spared some fourth-graders from homework during the last two weeks of the school year.

It was in June 2003, a few years after he’d retired as a U.S. magistrate judge in Bangor, while he worked with students from the George B. Weatherbee School in Hampden on a mock trial exercise. Two teachers were accused of giving too much homework.

At the trial, held in a federal courtroom in Bangor, one teacher was convicted, the other acquitted. The student judges “sentenced” the guilty teacher to refrain from assigning homework.

Beaulieu, who died Sunday at the age of 88, reversed that decision to the disappointment of the students. He also offered them some legal advice — “Talk to your parents before you call a lawyer.”

Credit: Courtesy of Beaulieu family

It was the compassion and humor typical of Beaulieu, members of Maine’s legal community said Tuesday.

Born on French Island in Old Town to Jules and Julia (Theriault) Beaulieu, Beaulieu graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy and St. Joseph’s University in New Brunswick, Canada, according to his obituary. After serving in the U.S. Army, he graduated in 1958 from Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

He was in private practice and worked in the Penobscot County district attorney’s office before being appointed a District Court judge in 1980, then moved up to Superior Court five years later. Beaulieu served as U.S. magistrate judge from 1992 until his retirement in 2000.

He inspired and influenced many lawyers and judges, according to members of the Penobscot County bar.

“Judge Beaulieu mentored an entire generation of attorneys — not only prosecutors but defense attorneys as well,” Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Andrew Mead said Tuesday in an email. “He was the very personification of what an attorney or judge should be: fair, practical, even-handed, collegial, wise, and possessed of a great sense of humanity.”

As a young attorney, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy intently watched the “master” Beaulieu prosecute cases.

“I was intent on every word he spoke and how he spoke them, the voice inflection, the body language — hoping some day I could be as good as he was,” Almy said.

Bangor defense attorney Martha Harris remembered Beaulieu as hardworking and compassionate.

“I remember a time when court went until 2 in the morning,” she said Tuesday in an email. “It was a very contested protective custody case and Judge Beaulieu was determined to get it done for the sake of the family. He did give us breaks to make certain we were all able to continue. He was such a hard worker. He was also very compassionate. Litigants always got a fair shake when appearing in front of him.”

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, who appeared before Beaulieu as a federal prosecutor, described him as “a judge of unwavering integrity with a keen understanding of the law.

“On the bench, Judge Beaulieu achieved the delicate balance between compassion and firmness,” she said. “Gene will be remembered as a man of great warmth and wit, whose kind and considerate demeanor endeared him to his many friends and colleagues in the court.”

He is survived by his wife Linda, three children, eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and three siblings.

Friends may call from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Birmingham Funeral Home in Old Town. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, at Holy Family Church in Old Town. A reception and celebration of his life will follow at the Black Bear Inn and Conference Center. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Old Town Animal Orphanage, 71 Airport Road, Old Town, Maine 04468.