The 50-yard line at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field was changed to honor longtime fan Robert “Desi” Desjardins after Desi passed away earlier this week. PAT MCDONALD/ Journal Tribune

The 50-yard line at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field was changed to honor longtime fan Robert “Desi” Desjardins after Desi passed away earlier this week. PAT MCDONALD/ Journal Tribune

Tiger Pride.

Those two words have been uttered a lot over the years by Biddeford athletes, coaches and fans — but for Robert “Desi” Desjardins, it was a way of life.

“He’s been there for every single thing, every single game, but Desi to our program has been the emblem of Tiger Pride,” said Biddeford field hockey coach Caitlin Albert. “I don’t know how to explain everything he means to myself, and to the team and to the girls because it’s just so much.”

Desi is shown at a Biddeford sporting event. TAMMY BELANGER PHOTOGRAPHY

Desi is shown at a Biddeford sporting event. TAMMY BELANGER PHOTOGRAPHY

Desjardins passed away on Thursday at the age of 75 and left behind a legacy of dedication, loyalty and “Tiger Pride” that will be remembered forever.

“I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but the thing I can say is he’s been around so long it’s like he was never not here,” said Biddeford football coach Brian Curit. “I mean I’m talking about when I was a young kid, when I was a high school athlete, when I was a young coach and then of course as I became a veteran coach. It was not just a guy that was a fan, it was a guy that was basically part of our family … not only part of Biddeford’s family but my own extended family.”

Robert “Desi” Desjardins was all smiles the night he was inducted into the Biddeford High School Hall of Honor. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Robert “Desi” Desjardins was all smiles the night he was inducted into the Biddeford High School Hall of Honor. SUBMITTED PHOTO

When Curit’s squad took the field on Friday night against Falmouth, the Tigers would have Desi with them as his name was painted in the Tiger paw at the 50-yard line.

“His incredible loyalty, his support, he was encouraging, I don’t know how to put a handle on that. Like I said, he’s always been here and it’s going to be awfully weird when he’s not here moving forward,” Curit said.

Robert “Desi” Desjardins poses with Biddeford graduate and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who brought the Stanley Cup back to Biddeford two years ago after the Penguins won their first of two straight championships. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Robert “Desi” Desjardins poses with Biddeford graduate and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who brought the Stanley Cup back to Biddeford two years ago after the Penguins won their first of two straight championships. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Desi, who played basketball and ran cross country for the Tigers before graduating from BHS in 1960, made it to the first Biddeford football game this year and Curit made sure to make it a special night.

“That was a real neat memory because we gave him the game ball that night. He was just ecstatic,” said Curit. “What happened was we had given him the game ball after the Westbrook game but it was a long day for him so he had to go home, so we never had an opportunity to give it to him. This past Friday, it must have been at 11 or 11:30, and my captains went over and gave it to him. When I saw him the next afternoon that was the first thing he talked about.”

While Desi was a big fan of the Biddeford football program, his support was not limited to the gridiron.

“The way I can best describe it is there has been no high school sports fan before Desi and there will be none after. I really believe he was one of a kind, you just don’t see it,” said Biddeford Athletic Director Dennis Walton. “I know there’s a lot of people out there that will say ‘well, I know some people that are pretty passionate,’ and that’s probably true … I’m certainly not downplaying anybody else, but I’m telling you the things he did and I think the one thing that made him so amazing is it’s easy to be a huge fan of a specific sport, but with him it was everything and anything. It was varsity, JV, freshman, boys, girls, football, swimming, it didn’t matter.”

Biddeford boys basketball coach Justin Tardif saw firsthand how supportive Desi was to all Tigers.

“What I remember about him is just how positive he was. He was a guy that came to every game, came to every practice and it didn’t matter if we were 13-5 or if we were 1-17 or 0-18, whatever our record was he was always so supportive of the players and the coaching staff,” said Tardif. “I know during our tough stretch there he was so supportive of our coaching staff, and what the players were doing on the court and the effort.”

Albert, who also coaches lacrosse at Biddeford, did not play high school sports at Biddeford, but once she took a job in the school district Desi made sure to make her part of the Tiger family.

“Ever since I started coaching, seven years ago, coming from Scarborough into a Biddeford community that is really tight-knit, Desi was the first one, and he made a joke about it because he’s all about Tiger pride, but he embraced me with open arms,” said Albert.

While Albert may not be a Biddeford native, Desi made sure to give her a history lesson.

“For the last two years he’s been getting dropped off and coming to my classroom at 1 o’clock everyday and just sitting there for an hour and a half and talking about sports. I feel like I’ve been at Biddeford for my whole life now,” Albert said.

One of Desi’s favorite hobbies was making scrapbooks for Biddeford athletics — something he started more than 50 years ago.

“I think that there’s a lot of people who are fans of high school sports, but what separates Desi from the others is that there is usually short spurts for two or three years when their kids are in school and that kind of dies out. I’ve known a lot of passionate fans over the years, but they come and go … one constant was Desi. He was just constant. He was scrapbooking and following teams since 1966 and that’s amazing. He’s got over 200 scrapbooks,” said Walton.

Albert was surprised when Desi told her he even had her — a former Scarborough standout — in one of his scrapbooks.

“I played three sports at Scarborough High School and he asked me one day, ‘so, you played basketball at Scarborough High School in 2005,’ and I was like, ‘yeah,’ and he said ‘I found you in my scrapbook,’” said Albert. “I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t know he had them dating all the way back to the sixties. It’s unbelievable that he stayed with it for so long and he’s been so involved and he never once took a week off. He’s been at every single thing.”

Albert was always impressed with how Desi made sure to not just support the varsity teams at Biddeford, but all of the Tiger athletes.

“He was always there. Even after a varsity lacrosse game, I’d look up in the stands and JV is playing and Desi is still there watching and cheering the JV team on,” said Albert. “It’s just so special, and the thing is it’s not like he had nothing better to do, he just cared so much. He wanted to be there so much. That was his hobby, that was his passion and I don’t know how to explain it, there’s no one else like him.”

“He was going to be there, he wanted to support the kids. He knew them all by name, they all loved him, they all went to see him every time he was around there. He was a very special individual,” added Walton, who also knew he and the entire Biddeford administration had a supporter in Desi. “It wasn’t just about the kids, it was about the coaches, it was about the administration, it was everything. That again is what really separates him from a typical high school fan.”

One thing everyone agreed on was how Desi’s impact on Biddeford was tough to put into words.

“I think he really meant everything. He was our most loyal fan. I think when you thought of Biddeford sports, you thought of Desi,” said Tardif. “Parents would give him rides to away games. We would find ways to get him to practice and get him home … I know one time he came on the school bus with us to an away game. He was part of the team and he was part of every team, fall, winter, spring, he was just a great guy and a great supporter of Biddeford athletics.”

Desi’s legacy will live on forever in Biddeford — and now he has the best seat in the house as he looks down and cheers on the Tigers.

Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: