Obituaries << Back to Obituaries


Thomas Dean “Tom” Durbin

Birth Date: June 8, 1948
Death Date: November 3, 2017

Decatur – Thomas Dean “Tom” Durbin, 69, of Decatur, passed away Friday, November 3, 2017, at Fair Havens Christian Village, Decatur.
Tom was born June 8, 1948, in Decatur the son of Dean Howard and Betty Jean (Cheeley) Durbin. Tom was an English teacher at MacArthur High School retiring in 2012. He was also very proud to be the scholastic bowl coach at MacArthur High School and enjoyed the Theatre.
Tom is survived by his brothers: David (Eula) Durbin of Benton, KY, and Charles (Sue) Durbin of Decatur; nieces, nephews, other relatives, former students and friends.
Private burial will be in Graceland Cemetery. There will be no visitation.
The family of Thomas Dean “Tom” Durbin is being served by Graceland/Fairlawn Funeral Home, 2091 N. Oakland Ave. Decatur, IL. Condolences and memories may be shared at

Private Burial
November 4, 2017
Graceland Cemetery
2091 N. Oakland Ave. Decatur, IL 62526
Get Directions
Add Entry
  1. To the Durbin Family-
    We are so sorry to learn about Tom's passing. We send you love and peace. God bless-John, Tammy, & Alex Sobottka

  2. My sincere condolences to all of Tom's surviving family and close friends. Tom was an outstanding educator and scholastic bowl coach, whom many of us admired as his colleagues and fellow scholastic bowl coaches. In the 90s Tom was our association president and a model coach. No matter how close a match was, Tom was always calm and confident in his teams. Because of him they were extremely well coached and cool under pressure. If one of my teams ever beat one of his( a rare occasion indeed), I felt like we were making good progress.

    Tom and his teams hosted well-run tournaments in Decatur, where the question quality was much better than other tournaments in those early years of scholastic bowl growth.
    Tom had a lot to do with that growth as president of the state steering committee. He gathered a group of committed coaches to serve and foster the expansion of scholastic bowl throughout Illinois. From fewer than 100 member coaches over 20 years ago, the
    coaches' association now has over 300 members.

    Tom's legacy is one of service to the many students he taught and coached and to the Illinois High School Scholastic Bowl Coaches' Association. He was fittingly inducted into our Hall of Fame in the inaugural class. Tom had a very positive impact on all those students and his colleagues, and they are all better for knowing him.

    Nick Pitz, retired scholastic bowl coach, Moline High School

  3. Some of my best memories from high school were in Mr. Durbin’s classroom. He had a way of not just engaging a student, but keeping them interested in the subject matter. He was a ray of light in an otherwise sour place.

  4. I only had the opportunity to coach against Tom Durbin once, but I had met him many times. In the Illinois quizbowl community, he was held in exceptional regard, considered one of the very best coaches that the state of Illinois ever produced. I remember visiting his room, which was a museum of his team's accomplishments, but I was more impressed with the leftovers of a party he had hosted the evening before for players who either couldn't afford or didn't get invited to prom. Men like him are rare. To his family, I extend my condolences. His service to others will endure.

  5. I had two classes at MacArthur with Mr. Durbin in high school: Freshman Honors English & Shakespeare as a Junior (which he admitted was designed as a Senior blow off class so the two of us that took it as Juniors were able to get away without taking a final).

    He was personable and kind and always willing to engage students regardless of if they were in his class or not. I remember visiting his classroom even when I didn't have any classes with him before school, and he was always so kind & encouraging.

    Mr. Durbin was a bright light for learning in a dim & dreary place for so many. He knew how to push his students while also making the challenging journey of gaining knowledge so much more enjoyable. The world lost an excellent educator & caring mentor.

  6. So saddened to hear of Mr. Durbin's transition. He was a soft spoken teacher at MHS but spoke very passionately about literature. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

  7. Nobody loved books more than Tom. The Friends of Decatur Public Library loved to see him come to our monthly Second Saturday Books Sale at DPL, pushing his cart, first heading straight for the Biographies. Not only was Tom a supportive patron, but also he volunteered each Labor Day weekend for the big used book sale at the Civic Center. He missed this year and we missed him………and will keep missing him.
    Godspeed, Karen Penn

  8. Tom was one of best teacher's while I was at MacArthur. If he saw something in you he would help you anyway that he could. I stayed in touch with him for a few years after H.S. He always had a open heart and a would lend a ear. He helped me through a lot after H.S. He will be truly missed.

  9. You made it your mission to inspire and educate new generations of Decaturites, and in that you succeeded tremendously. I'm proud to know you. The world needs more people like you, and because of your teaching, it will. Rest easy.

  10. Wow. I’m shocked and extremely saddened by this. He was so young. Mr. Durbin took me under his wing my senior year at Stephen Decatur High School in 1982. I was in jeopardy of not graduating. My grades were so bad I wasn’t going to be allowed to be in the plays which I dearly loved. This was when my dad and I were fighting so badly and was threatening to kick me out. Mr. Durbin would drive me home after play practices and worry what I was walking in to every night. He would often take me to his house after school and help me do my homework. His mother would even make me dinner. They practically adopted me. If it wasn’t for him I absolutely would not have graduated. He was a mentor, teacher and father figure when I had no other support in the world. I visited with him a couple of times after graduation and after I moved away a married. I emailed him a few years ago to thank him for all he did for me. He didn’t reply. I called him when I went to Decatur after my mom died. He didn’t answer. I left a message. Maybe he was sick. He was a very private man. I wish there was a funeral. I would fly back to attend. I hope he had someone in his life to love. I’m sure many kids past and present would want to be there to remember him. I hope he knew how significant his influence was in my life and how grateful I am for what he did. I hurts that I wasn’t able to see him and thank him in person- to show him how happy my life has turned out. I think he would have felt glad and proud of the person I became. I’d like to think with social media and other ways he was able to know that. Thank-you Mr. Durbin. I can never adequately express my gratitude for your care and love for the lost soul that I was. I hope your life was full of joy and peace. God bless you and your family. You will always hold a sacred place of honor in my life. — AW SDHS 1982

  11. I remember walking into his classroom once to pick up attendance slips and he pulled me into a class discussion. He always did things like that. He will be greatly missed. I learned so much from him. He inspired us to be "prudent students". He seemed to know each of us better than we thought.

  12. I was very proud to be part of Mr. Durbin’s classes and Scholastic Bowl Team at MHS. He was very kind and supportive to me; I send my love to his family.

  13. I remember taking that profile picture of him at Krannert. We were seeing Don Quixote and I was so excited to finally get a willing picture of him!
    He’ll be dearly missed. It will always be a deep regret of mine to not have been around in the end. The world is better having had you in it.
    You were a great teacher, and a wonderful, caring individual with an iron sense of duty.
    Rest easy.

  14. He was a wonderful teacher with always a smile and positive word for his students. He will be greatly missed.

  15. I worked with Tom for many years. I was always so appreciative of him , not only as a teacher, but as a team player on the faculty. As Student Council advisor for 10 years, I needed those brave souls on the teaching staff to step up and help with skits, floats, and spirit days. Tom was always a willing soul; he did some artful work in faculty skits and participated in spirit days like a champ! Most of all, I will remember Tom as a caring and compassionate man who went the extra mile for his students. He was so loved and respected! Ever the creator of learning packets….and packets….and packets….he was a teacher who taught with heart from his heart. Gone too soon, but his spirit lives on in the many lives he impacted both in the classroom and out!

    Kathy Thompson
    MHS 1979-2001

  16. Mr. Durbin had a way of engaging students and keeping things interesting. I never experienced another teacher like him. Prayers and sincere condolences. Dues ex Machina!

Add Entry to Guest Book

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Upload Photo or Video

  • Choose Media to upload from your computer
  • OR Add a link to online media (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).