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    Friday, September 22, 2023

    Former Stonington police Capt. Jerry Desmond dies

    Capt. Jerry Desmond of the Stonington Police Department leads the Pledge of Allegiance during the 2012 Stonington Police Department Awards Ceremony on Sept. 26, 2012, at the Mystic Aquarium. Desmond, who also spent many years helping coach the high school's gymastics and football teams, died Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, after a long battle with cancer. (Tim Martin/The Day, FILE)
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    Stonington — Former police department Capt. Jerry Desmond, who spent many years helping coach the high school's gymnastics and football teams, died Friday after a long battle with cancer.

    Desmond, 63, was known not only for his gregarious nature but for telling people he "knew a guy" when they needed some assistance. He also had a habit of calling people "doctor" when addressing them.

    "He had an immeasurable impact on this community," said police Chief J. Darren Stewart, who worked with Desmond for more than three decades. "He was a man of loyalty, character and wonderful humor. He is going to be missed."

    Desmond, a Stonington native who earned a bachelor's degree in education from Southern Connecticut State University and a master's degree in homeland security leadership, worked for the police department for 34 years. He helped oversee the department's marine unit, was involved with the department's dive team and was a boating instructor.

    Stewart said Desmond was the driving force behind securing a $375,000 federal grant that paid for the department's new police boat that went into service in 2014. Desmond also served as the department's spokesman, developed and oversaw its email and phone message alert system for residents and businesses and led the department's school safety initiatives in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.

    Desmond retired from the police department in 2014 to take a job with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as its boating safety representative. At the time, he said the new job was a great fit and opportunity he couldn't pass up. 

    "I'm so fortunate in my life to have gone to work and loved what I do," he said at the time. "This is a second opportunity to do that."

    But, he added, "My heart and soul are in Stonington and they will continue to be here."

    In fact, he continued as a reserve police officer here until his death. This year he also was honored by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. In 2018, Desmond, a 1976 Stonington High School graduate, was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2016 was named the Connecticut Assistant Coach of the Year.

    Stewart said Desmond, who leaves behind his wife, Jackie, fought a long courageous battle against cancer. "We thought if anyone was going to beat it, it was going to be Jerry," he said.

    As much of an impact as he had as a police officer, Desmond had an even greater impact on the youth of Stonington, Stewart said, from coaching to serving as the department's youth officer.

    Stewart said that when he joined the force, he worked third shift with Desmond. Desmond later was in Stewart's wedding party.

    "What a great guy," Stewart said. "He was all about Stonington."

    Former police Chief David Erskine said everyone knew Desmond in the community. "He was my Henry Kissinger. He could go out and discuss an issue with anyone because he knew everyone in the community," he said. 

    Erskine said Desmond's dedication to the community was evident by the fact he once went 14 years without taking a sick day.

    "He was always for the underdog," Erskine said. "He was a great guy."           

    The flags at the police department have been flying at half-staff in honor of Desmond since his death. 

    Desmond's family will receive relatives and friends Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. at the Stonington High School Gymnasium, 176 South Broad St., Pawcatuck, according to his online obituary. A service will follow on Monday, Jan. 3, at 11:30 a.m. at St. Michael Church at 60 Liberty St., Pawcatuck, and he will be buried at St. Michael Cemetery. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, face masks are required in the high school Sunday and in the church Monday.


    Stonington police Capt. Jerry Desmond, with a portion of the 50 pounds of marijuana in the background, holds a news conference at the Stonington Police Department on April 19, 2013, regarding two related drug arrests made earlier in the day. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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