Elmer Deschaine: Still cruising at 84

THOMASTON – He may just go on forever.

On a day where the air was heavier than a quilted blanket, Thomaston and Litchfield opened up their girls soccer season. The Golden Bears waded through the rather shaggy lawn surface to cruise to a 6-0 victory.

The officiating crew did what it needed to and went unnoticed always a good thing if you are wearing the stripes and blowing the whistles. This was a smooth one. Still, it was hard not to pay attention to Elmer Deschaine. It’s hard to ignore any referee that is 84-years-old and still chugging up and down the field in the middle of high school action on day that oozed sweat.

Deschaine is in his 50th season refereeing on the pitch. Half a century. He’s been on the field longer than most of people watching have been on the earth.  In a sport where you have to move and do some thinking and reacting.

A little perspective here. The average American male lifespan is a tad over 73 years. Elmer left that in the dust a while back. Richard Nixon hadn’t even resigned when Elmer started and has been dead for 29 years. Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 when Elmer first started.  And here is Elmer the Octogenarian still rolling along.

Be impressed. Be inspired.  Don’t be surprised.

This is a guy whose father was a lumber jack in the logging business and he was still cutting trees down not that long ago. Today he somewhat reluctantly and smartly does not take to the branches. He loads and hauls and stays involved. Physically we should all be humbled. At least most of us.

And soccer? This is the baby of his whistle-tooting career. Baseball came first (1963) and you can still find him on area fields making good with the national pastime. Basketball took up 58 years of his life until he gave it up a couple of years ago due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

That’s 168 years of blowing the whistle with no end in sight. Did we say be impressed, be inspired?

“If I embarrass myself the assigner will let me know then it will be time to go,” said Deschaine who handled the sweltering atmosphere with ease.

So why? Why take the chance of fan abuse at this stage of the game. Why put your body through the rigors of it all. Why keep it up when you could down in Florida with the rest of the Northeast contingent over 65. Why keep it up when you could be lounging at the pool?

“I like to stay busy which is why I still in the tree business,” Deschaine says. “I have nothing to fall back on.  I don’t know when to stop. I love the action and I’m in pretty good shape. I also like to earn some out of pocket money.”

And know this, Deschaine earns his money. “I do the best I can and I am at every game site one hour before the game.”

Deschaine is also not just a once-in-while guy. He officiates about three games a week. When possible he takes long weekends to travel.

For those not familiar with Deschaine, the don’t be surprised portion of this can also be traced back to his athletic background.  He is a certified Waterbury sports legend.

Elmer attended Gonzaga University on a basketball scholarship and averaged 16.4 points for the 1963-64 season and 11 points for his career. Prior to that he turned down baseball contract offers from the Yankees and Spokane Indians. He was an outstanding fast and modified-pitch softball player in the Brass City.

Living on his laurels? Never happened. Elmer is still collecting laurels. At the age of 84. He might go on forever.

Be impressed. Be inspired. Don’t be surprised.   

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