STONINGTON – When he learned the tricks of the trade to take a managerial position with the Stonington Police Department, there was a conversation Captain Todd Olson had with his predecessor, Jerry Desmond, which still stands out clearly in his mind.
Known for his 24 hour commitment to the community, Olson recalled how Desmond regularly called the third shift supervisor to check things up or stop at the station on his day off. Curious as to how he came to reconcile all of this with his personal life, Olson once stopped while training to be a captain and asked Desmond, “Don’t you ever think of the police department?
“He didn’t hesitate when he turned to me and said, ‘No, it’s in my head morning, noon and night,'” said Olson. “He was the kind of man Jerry was, and he was an example of the dedication he had to this community.”
During his 63 years, Jerry Desmond touched the lives of many in the community as a 40-year-old officer, boating safety specialist, former school resources manager, longtime gymnastics and football coach for young people. He is known as the “first voice of the Stonington Police Department”.
The city will meet this weekend to say goodbye to Desmond, who died on Christmas Eve at Westerly Hospital following a battle with cancer.
Desmond’s wife, Jacquelyn (Gauvin) Desmond, and other family members will receive friends from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday in the gymnasium at Stonington High School. The funeral is scheduled for Monday at 11:30 am at St. Michael’s Church, 60 Liberty St., Pawcatuck. After his service, he will be buried in the Saint-Michel cemetery.
Wearing a mask is compulsory when entering high school on Sunday and at church on Monday.
Although he was not born in Stonington, Desmond moved to town in 1963, when he was only 5 years old, and never left it, joining the police department and making a name for himself as as a civil servant and a volunteer.
Police Chief J. Darren Stewart, who joined the force alongside Desmond more than three and a half decades ago, said there was nothing Desmond wouldn’t do for the city, noting that even when he retired from his full-time role, he never stopped working as a reserve officer at major events and always offered help when needed.
“At his retirement party, I remember looking around to see everyone who came to say ‘thank you.’ There were so many people from all over the community, including many families that he had helped through the most difficult times, “said Stewart.” He was a mentor to many, a coach, a good officer and a good friend. “
After serving as a reserve officer, Desmond joined the force full time in the 1970s and pursued a 34-year career, retiring after reaching the rank of captain and held that position for 17 years. It was a career that hardly happened, however.
Desmond attended Southern Connecticut State University as an education major with the ambition of becoming a teacher, family members said in his obituary. When he graduated he couldn’t find a reliable teaching job and instead became a police officer, as well as an assistant football coach and an assistant athletics coach at SCSU and coach- leader of the women’s gymnastics team at Stonington High School, where he continued to coach until recently.
“Working with young people has been one of the most rewarding parts of his career, a highlight being the 1991 SHS State Champion football team, which he described as ‘a season of a lifetime’ with his friend Bob Mitchell, ”the family said.
Stonington High Gymnastics head coach Leslie Gomes, who led the team for 28 years with Desmond as an assistant coach and worked with him for 41 years, said it was only fitting that he is received in the gymnasium, a place where he has helped change so many lives.
For every moment of strict instruction and demand for discipline that Gomes had with his daughters, she said Desmond countered with a unique ability to help the team relax and focus. The combination proved to be beneficial for the girls, who were able to improve and perform better both in competition and in school.
“It has made a positive difference in the lives of every girl who has participated in our program,” Gomes said Wednesday. “The way it happened every day, he still had so much wit about it that it was hard not to relax and just have fun.”
“I’m still in shock,” she said. “While I go to the gym every day, I always expect to see him walk through those doors. It’s hard to know that he won’t be able to continue to lean on everyone he has helped, to think of all the girls who will never have the opportunity to learn from such a strong and positive role model. than Jerry.
After the sudden change in career path after college, Desmond excelled in his role as a community policeman. He graduated from the FBI Training Academy at Quantico and received a Masters in Homeland Security Leadership from UConn.
Stewart said it didn’t take long for Jerry to become “the voice of the ministry,” and he said the agency couldn’t have had a better representative.
After serving eight years as a Community Resource Officer working with Stonington Public Schools, Desmond was promoted to Sergeant. He was then promoted to captain and served for 17 years, where he truly became the voice of the department. It was the first to deliver recorded messages to residents as part of Everbridge’s new reverse phone notification system. the new police headquarters have been built.
“That’s who Jerry was. He has always been a leader and for years he has been known as the face of the department, ”said State Representative Greg Howard, longtime volunteer and Stonington Police Detective during his freshman tenure. as a legislator.
“Between his work in the community as a volunteer and his dedication as an officer, he was present at almost every event organized by the city,” Howard said. “When you thought of Stonington Police, you thought of Jerry Desmond, and he brought a positive attitude to work and was a positive reflection of the police in general. “
Stewart said he also helped help the Stonington Police Department establish its maritime division, acquiring a boat for the department through state grants. Desmond has also run many boating safety courses and events in the community, said Stewart, and retired from his full-time position only because he had a rare opportunity to continue and serve as an instructor and Boating Safety Expert with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The move allowed him to use his years of work as an officer and his initial training as a teacher to promote “a great career in the public service,” said Stewart.
“There are so many memories of Jerry for a lot of us,” said Stewart. “He would show up with a smile every day, call everyone ‘doctor’ and be as quick-witted as they come. Jerry always brought a positive attitude with him and was ready to do whatever it took to make a difference. He will be truly missed.