An up-and-coming politician in the nation’s capital, 29-year-old Bristol native Desi Deschaine, was found Monday morning floating dead in the waters of Baltimore Harbor.
Deschaine, a joyful and friendly fellow, has lived in Washington, D.C. since his 1997 graduation from Bristol Eastern High School, becoming immersed in Democratic politics there.
He always had a keen interest in government, even as a teenager in Bristol, when he and Jeff Letalien, a Bristol Central graduate, worked together for Republican candidates.
“We had fun,” Letalien said Tuesday, working on a number of campaigns. He said that Deschaine especially liked former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson of New Britain.
Since then, Deschaine switched parties and worked for a number of political causes and candidates, most recently serving for a year and a half as the communications director for a D.C. council member.
On Sunday, shortly before noon, Deschaine wrote a Facebook message from his cell phone that said he was “getting ready for an amazing day boating in Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay on J’aime’s boat and hope our friends join for what will be an awesome and amazing afternoon on the water!!”
The police found Deschaine’s body floating in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on Monday morning.
It’s not clear what happened, but they are investigating.
J’aime Huret, a friend who apparently owned the boat, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Deschaine, who was gay, described himself online as “outgoing, energetic, out to save the world (or at least help it), busy, over-extended, not one to sit on the sidelines of life.”
Nina Dubay of Bristol, one of Deschaine’s cousins, said Tuesday he was a “very well known man not just in Bristol but in D.C. as well – and probably everywhere in between.”
She said she grew up with Deschaine “so we were inseparable.”
Dubay called him a “happy, free-spirited, happy-go-lucky kind of guy” who will be missed by everyone who knew him.
“He definitely touched everybody’s heart that he came across,” she said. “Always smiling, never a frown on that boy’s face as a kid or as an adult.”
Marcus Mrowka, another Bristol native who’s working in Washington, said that “Desi was the most selfless person I know and a rare breed in politics. He came to Washington to make a difference and his commitment to helping others will always be remembered.”
“We were colleagues and friends,” he said. “Since we were both from Bristol, he would often ride back home with me for holidays. During those long car rides we would debate politics and discuss our futures. We didn't always agree on the issues or the radio station but those trips will be a lot lonelier now.”
Jack Evans, the D.C. council member for whom Deschaine worked, called him “a bright, bubbly, enthusiastic, and wonderful person who you just could not help but love.”
“ I had the great pleasure of knowing and working with him not just on my staff, but on my campaigns, and over the years with Mayor Williams’ staff, the Opera and numerous other capacities and roles,” Evans said.
“He brought his passion, energy and good spirits to everything and everyone he touched over the years,” he said.
Letalien, who’s an attorney in New York City, recalled that Deschaine “led the charge” a couple of years ago when a group of Eastern graduates invaded Central’s 10th reunion party as a lark.
Scott Pomeroy, who got to know Deschaine during former Washington Mayor Anthony Williams’ administration, said Tuesday that his friend was a “great person who cared deeply for this city and its issues.”
Deschaine once attributed his passion for politics to a trip he made to Guatemala at age 15.
“ I saw firsthand things that most people in this country never get a chance to see – at age 15 I grew up real fast!” he told Small Friendly Planet. “It’s hard to imagine a country where children -- thousands of children -- roam the streets homeless, sick and hungry!”
“When I stepped off the plane in America it was from that day forward that I decided to do everything I could to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities given to people in this country to make this world a better place,” Deschaine said.
After graduating from Catholic University in 2001 with a degree in international politics, Deschaine worked on several campaigns and in a number of jobs, including head of external relations for the Washington Opera.
He was on the national committee for the Young Democrats, a member of the Democratic State Committee in Washington, vice president of the Logan Circle Community Association and much more.
A friend, Tina Duryea, said she used to give Deschaine rides home to Connecticut during the holidays.
"He was one of the most positive people I have ever met, and I never heard him so an unkind word about anyone. He had so much love and enthusiasm to share with the world." she said.
Duryea said, "I cannot fathom how someone so young and full of life could die so tragically young."
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org