Legacy. How do we want to be remembered once we pass from this life? If we could engrave our own epitaph, what would it say? Most of us from time to time have pondered these questions. Even those who claim they don’t care what others think of them, deep down in the crevices of their soul their eternal reputation really does matter to them.
Thoughts of our own legacies become poignant in the wake of the passing of a loved one or close friend. Recently, these thoughts came to the forefront of my mind with the recent passing of Coach Joe Deschaine. Deschaine died at the age of seventy in a single vehicle accident on Interstate 95.
I first met Coach Deschaine when I was embarking on a coaching career of my own. It was the summer of 1994, Ron Brown had just been hired as the boys basketball coach at Bangor Christian. Deschaine’s Wisdom Pioneers made the long trek down from St. Agatha for a weekend of competition. The squad camped out in the church basement and it was my responsibility to bunk down with the team overnight. I still remember how respectful his players were, a reflection of their coach in every sense. When you are around a group of athletes, it doesn’t take long to understand the dynamics within the team.
I was a wet behind the ears first year assistant coach but just from that weekend I could tell something special was being built in the St. John Valley. The Pioneers would go on to make three straight tournament appearances from 1995-97 under Deschaine’s tutelage. Wisdom defeated Greenville in a 1996 quarterfinal before falling to Deer Isle-Stonington in the semis. In a profession rife with egos, Joe Deschaine coached with a servant’s heart. It was never ‘look at me’, it was all about the kids. I always found myself pulling for those teams. Coach Deschaine and I would always meet up and chat when they were in town.
In the fall of 1999, Coach Deschaine and I became acquainted on a more personal level, coaching on the same staff under Bob Cimbollek at John Bapst. This would turn out to be Cimbollek’s final season of high school coaching. Deschaine was a tremendous resource of knowledge for our entire staff during that one season he spent with us. We had some great basketball conversations during that winter. I still have two of the basketball pamphlets he wrote, one on developing post moves, and the other on press breakers.
The one thing that really endeared Coach Deschaine to Cimbollek and I was if you asked him a question you would get an honest answer. There was no sugar coating or dancing around the issue. Such was the case one night following a Crusader victory at the Bangor Auditorium. Deschaine, Cimbollek, and I were gathered in the back hallway getting ready to leave for the night. It was a Monday night, we had an early start time, so Cimbollek was all ready to head home and watch professional wrestling, which he was into big at the time. As we were about to head out, Coach Deschaine was asked to compare the officiating in our area to that in Aroostook County by one of basketball’s highers up in the state.
What followed was an hour long discussion, shall we say. It was a discussion that became quite heated at times. It was a lesson well learned. If you ask Coach Deschaine a question and don’t want an honest answer, you probably shouldn’t ask. Needless to say, Cimbollek missed The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin that night.
As Coach Deschaine’s youngest sons were growing up, we spent many days and evenings together in the press box at Mansfield Stadium. Baseball was also a favorite pastime of his. You’d always see him during the spring and summer wearing his New York Yankees hat, which I’d often ride him about. He developed a friendship there with Field Director, Ron St. Pierre. St. Pierre grew up in the St. John Valley in Van Buren. Baseball, due to the pace of the game, lends itself to much random banter during the contests. I will admit being lost in the conversation at times when St. Pierre would join us in the press box. Once they started conversing in French I was left out.
When I think of Joe Deschaine’s legacy, I think of the wonderful family he has left behind. He is survived by his wife Monique and sons Matt, Nate, Mike, Jonathan, and daughter Stephanie. They are some of the most kind, gentle, well-spoken people you will ever meet.
His legacy is etched in the numerous people he impacted in his seventy years on this earth. During last Tuesday’s visiting hours,the line of those who came to pay their final respects consistently snaked throughout the funeral home and out the door.
Above all, Joe Deschaine was a man of faith. He wasn’t one to thump his Bible but you knew by the way he walked the walked. Even when he may not have had the most to give at times, he gave what he had anyway. While Coach was a good man, I am confident he is singing and dancing in heaven today, not because of his inherent goodness, but because of who he believed in. You see, Joe Deschaine did not do good deeds in order to gain favor with God, he performed good works because he had favor with God.
Philippians 3:10 says: That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. His resurrection has no power for us unless we first know Him. Through the example Coach Deschaine left for us, I know it would be his hope that others would come to get to know the one who afforded him eternal life in heaven. By knowing Him, we too one day can have that assurance of being reunited with Joe.
At times like these, mere words seem so inadequate in honoring a man I came to know and respect so greatly. When my time on Earth is past I look forward to reuniting our friendship and coaching once again up above. Until that time, may you rest in peace Coach Deschaine.