Pella Corp engineer leaves lasting legacy for Iowa parks
Chris Desjardins Memorial Fund sparks renewable energy project
Release date:Jun 5, 2012
Printed from: http://pressroom.pella.com//news_releases/about/429/pella-corp-engineer-leaves-lasting-legacy-for-iowa-parks
PELLA, IOWA — June 4, 2012 — Chris Desjardins worked tirelessly as an engineer for Pella Corporation for 23 years. Quiet-natured and passionate about energy efficiency, people described him as an avid outdoorsman, brilliant thinker and all-around-nice guy. His sudden death at age 47 on May 5, 2009, stunned family and coworkers. Today, his legacy lives on through a new renewable energy project funded by Desjardins’ estate, designed to help encourage Iowans to use renewable energy, specifically wind and solar power in their homes.
When Chris died, he left a generous gift from an insurance policy to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) for the creation of a renewable energy project. The Chris Desjardins Memorial Fund fueled the seed money for IDNR’s largest renewable energy project, together with additional funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, IJOBS, and the Resource Enhancement and Protection Fund.
Details about the project will be announced at a ceremony Friday, June 8, at Honey Creek State Park Resort near Moravia, Iowa. The public event will take place from 10 a.m. – noon on the resort’s back terrace and will include tours of the activity center, lodge, cottages and grounds.
“His college application essay urged the U.S. to invest more heavily in renewable energy, specifically wind and solar power,” says older brother Pete Desjardins, who lives in Chicago. Chris wrote the essay in 1981, when he was 19 years old. “It wasn’t surprising that he was thinking about renewable energy in his estate plan. I guess you could say that he ‘walked the walk,’” Pete says. “That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Renewables: Live! project
Honoring the family’s wishes, Pete championed the Desjardins Renewable Project taking a vague idea and turning it into a statewide pilot program. Its aim is to give Iowans first-hand experience with the power of renewable energy by creating seven working solar- and wind-powered building projects at several Iowa state parks. The details:
- $1.1 million project – funding from IOEI, through federal stimulus, IDNR and the Chris Desjardins Memorial Fund
- State parks included in pilot project – Honey Creek Resort in Appanoose County, Lake Darling in Washington County, Pleasant Creek in Linn County, EB Lyons Nature Center in Dubuque County, Big Creek in Polk County, Brushy Creek in Webster County, Lewis & Clark in Monona County and Nine Eagles in Decatur County
- Renewable power projects include – solar-powered security lights, solar photovoltaic panels for building/cabin rooftops, small wind turbines and solar thermal roof applications
- Goals – to introduce renewable technologies accessible to the average homeowner, while creating a green experience at state parks. Additionally, reduce ongoing power expenses and the parks’ overall carbon footprint.
“Although I never got a chance to meet him, Chris was an inspiration on how one person can make a difference. We want to help tell his story and inspire people to install wind and solar projects in their homes,” said Tammie Krausman, IDNR project manager and a driving force behind making the project a reality.
“We chose sites throughout the state so we can educate as many people as possible, while reducing our energy demand. It’s an exciting way to give people first-hand experience with the power of renewable energy,” she says. “Everyone who worked on this project was inspired by Chris Desjardins.”
Legendary work ethic
Chris worked for Pella in Iowa during his career. At the time of his death, Chris was living in Tennessee, working as an engineering manager for Pella Corporation’s Murray, Ky., manufacturing operations.
“Chris was a prize jewel that you wanted to have on your team,” says Jim Meyer, vice president of operations at Pella and longtime colleague. “Chris lived Pella® Windows and Doors. He was his own guy. He did it his own way. He wasn’t afraid to have confidence in who he was.”
Chris worked for Pella Corporation for his entire career. Though Chris lived a “uniquely private” life, Meyer says he was a valued part of the “family” at Pella Corporation and was regarded as a high-energy, intelligent, humble leader with an unmatched work ethic.
Pete says his brother showed a lifelong passion for alternative energy. For instance, Chris owned two wind turbines to help power his Tennessee home. He also drove “the greasemobile” — a 1989 Volkswagen® Jetta® he converted to run on recycled grease that he filtered in his garage. The greasemobile boasted an astounding 375 miles per gallon of diesel fuel (the remaining energy being provided by recycled popcorn oil). “He drove that car to work every day,” Pete remembers. “It stuck out like a sore thumb.”
Chris was very athletic — running 17 marathons during his life, including one week when he ran two. He also loved to hunt. He went on an African safari by himself, was dropped from a helicopter into remote Alaska to hunt bear with a bow and arrow, and had Iowa deer trophies hanging in his home.
“We got cheated when Chris died,” Meyer says of Desjardin’s unexpected passing. “We needed to have Chris around longer. He was so impactful for our company. You just don’t replace someone like him.”
A portion of the Chris Desjardins Memorial Fund is being set aside as seed money to attract future renewable energy grants, Pete says. Others who wish to adopt this noble pursuit or contribute further can contact The Iowa Department of Natural Resources or Pete Desjardins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We want to make sure that Chris is remembered,” Pete says. “We want his legacy to stand for renewable energy and educating people about how to make their own homes and lifestyles more sustainable and energy-efficient. I know that’s what he’d want.”
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources site (http://www.iowadnr.gov/)
- Iowa Office of Energy Independence site (http://www.state.ia.us/government/governor/energy/)
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