Robert Desjardins, seen cheering on the Biddeford High softball team in May 2008, attended hundreds of sporting events involving Biddeford teams – at all levels. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Robert “Desi” Desjardins remained Biddeford’s No. 1 sports fan to the very end, using his last words to tell two friends: “I didn’t get to finish my scrapbook.”

Julie Maloy and Donna Cadorette took the newspaper clippings about Biddeford teams that Desjardins had collected and placed them in the scrapbook just before he died Thursday at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough. The Biddeford native, who had cancer, was 75.

Desjardins devoted much of his adult life to supporting Biddeford athletes and chronicling their exploits in the scrapbooks that he started compiling in 1966. He never married, and the legion of athletes, coaches and parents he met over the years became his family. Maloy and Cadorette were among a group of women he called “his daughters.”

Maloy, who served as his power of attorney, said that she and the circle of friends who cared for Desjardins as his health worsened found more than 200 scrapbooks – containing mostly newspaper clippings about Biddeford student athletes and their lives – in his Graham Street apartment. Those scrapbooks and the Biddeford High School yearbooks that Desjardins purchased each year will be donated to Biddeford High School.

Friends say Desjardins will be remembered by generations of Biddeford athletes and their families. He has no known living relatives, having been predeceased by his parents and several aunts and uncles.

“He is survived by all of the former and current Biddeford Tiger students and families whom he tirelessly supported,” his obituary reads.

Desjardins, who was nicknamed for actor Desi Arnaz, attended Biddeford schools, playing basketball and running track and cross-country at Biddeford High before graduating in 1960. His love of sports carried over into his adulthood. Over the years, Desjardins attended hundreds of sporting events involving Biddeford teams. And the level of competition didn’t matter. He attended Little League softball and baseball games, high school field hockey games and football games.

Robert ‘Desi’ Desjardins made hundreds of friends as a fan of Biddeford sports teams and recently was awarded a football game ball.

“Desi was Biddeford’s No. 1 sports fan,” Maloy said.

Sports events were how Desjardins’ “daughters” met him, Maloy said. Their children, who participated in Biddeford athletic programs, all knew Desjardins because he would come to their games.

Now in their late 40s and early 50s, Maloy, Cadorette, Lisa Brown-Lewis, Kelly Reuillard, Debbie Creapeau and Deb Dumoulin banded together about eight years ago to look after Desjardins, who worked in the Pepperell Mills for many years, retiring as a security guard.

“About eight years ago, Desi got really sick,” Maloy explained. “And we realized that he didn’t have any family to take care of him.”

They drove him to games, to doctor’s appointments, cleaned his apartment, had him over to their homes as a guest for the holidays, and even recruited community members to provide him with a week’s worth of meals every Sunday.

Dumoulin’s son, Brian Dumoulin, plays in the National Hockey League for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Maloy said Dumoulin regards Desjardins as his grandfather.

“Brian loved him. He called himself Desi’s biggest fan,” Maloy said. Dumoulin called him last Friday at Gosnell House and urged him to keep fighting.

“Desi told him I’m not sure I can,” Maloy recalled.

“(Desi) bleeds Biddeford black and orange and I’m not sure there will be another person like him,” Deb Dumoulin said.

Brian Curit, Biddeford High’s football coach, said Desjardins’ love for the Biddeford teams went deeper than just showing up at a game to cheer athletes on.

“Desi has just been around forever. He supports all sports – girls, guys, freshman, JV,” Curit said. “It might sound odd, but we’re his family. It’s mind-blowing really. He was at my wedding, he has been at funerals, he was at my son’s graduation party three months ago.”

What made his attendance at contests even more impressive was that Desjardins did not drive. Curit said he would walk, ride a bike, or get a ride from someone to attend games. Biddeford residents drove Desjardins to away games.

“I don’t know what he ever sought to do, but his impact was immense. He was a very gentle, very caring, very decent human being,” Curit said.

Don Wilson, a former athletic director and coach at Biddeford High, said Desjardins was not your typical sports fan. Wilson developed a lifelong friendship with Desjardins after meeting him in the seventh grade. At the time, Desjardins was a high school senior.

“He cheered for everybody. He would take interest in any sport in Biddeford, at any level, male or female, and cheer for that team. Biddeford sports, all Biddeford sports, was his family,” Wilson said.

He would even show up at team practices. Every year before football season started, Desjardins would bring Wilson a list of athletic supporters or former Biddeford athletes who had passed away in the previous year.

“Desi wanted us to have a moment of silence for them before the first home game every year. And we always did,” Wilson said.

Desjardins was able to attend the Biddeford Tigers’ football home opener on Sept. 2. It was the last sporting event he watched in person.

Before the game started, the entire football team and coaches greeted Desjardins and wished him well.

“They all hugged him and many of them were crying,” Maloy said. After the game, the team captains brought the game ball to Desjardins’ apartment.

Wilson said that in one old yearbook he found a quote from Desjardins that said he wanted “to make a million.”

“The way I look at it is he didn’t want to make a million dollars. He wanted to make hundreds and hundreds of friends. And he did that.”

Visiting hours will be Sunday from 3-7 p.m. at Hope Memorial Chapel, 480 Elm St., Biddeford. A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated beginning at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Joseph’s Church in Biddeford.

Staff writers Mike Lowe, Steve Craig and Melanie Creamer contributed to this report.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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