UPD Officer Jean-Guy Deffense, who died in wreck, is recalled as dedicated


University of Florida Police Department officials carry the casket during a funeral service for UPD officer Jean-Guy Deffense, who died in a car crash last week, at the Canterbury Equestrian Showplace in Newberry on Wednesday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 5:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 5:17 p.m.

As a young boy in Portugal, Jean-Guy Deffense chased down a man who had just held up a store in his neighborhood, so it should come as no surprise he eventually became a police officer.

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University of Florida Police Department officials carry the casket during a funeral service for UPD officer Jean-Guy Deffense, who died in a car crash last week, at the Canterbury Equestrian Showplace in Newberry on Wednesday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun

He served in the U.S. Army in operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, surviving a hit by an improvised explosive device, and he was a fantasy football fanatic.

Those were some of the remembrances shared during a memorial service Wednesday for the University of Florida police officer who died Saturday in an Orlando traffic crash.

“He wanted to be the best at whatever he did — not because of the glory but because he took pride in all aspects of his life,” said Deffense’s son, Bobby Pittsenbarger. “Dad was an extraordinary man who helped family, friends and strangers with a warm heart.”

Deffense, 43, was driving his 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup about 3 p.m. on an East-West Expressway on-ramp to the Florida Turnpike when the truck veered onto the shoulder, rolled over, hit a metal light pole and landed on its roof. He was wearing his seat belt.

His wife, Marcia Wolf, 45, was not hurt. She also was wearing her seat belt.

Deffense was born in Portugal and lived in Brazil before coming to the United States as a student and living with his uncle, Mike Jeffries.

“When he was in the seventh grade, he was completely outraged that a classmate stole two of his pencils. He reported it to the principal. My wife got a call and went to apologize to the principal for him making such a big deal of this. And the principal looked at her and said he did the right thing,” Jeffries said. “It reminded me of something Mark Twain said — ‘Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.’ In that regard, he was an astonishing young man.”

Jeffries said Deffense joined the ROTC and worked at McDonald’s — taking pride in the uniforms of both. And he once pushed his car a mile home after it had run out of gas.

Co-workers described how dedicated he was at UPD, where he was hired in August 2008 and served on the honor guard and the sharpshooter team.

Former military colleagues told of how Deffense was hit by an IED and how, despite spending 18 months in close quarters, Deffense had such a personality that he never irritated anyone.

“Sleep well, Deffense, take care of yourself,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Nathaniel Mulkey.

The service at the Canterbury Showplace Center in Newberry was attended by police officers from throughout Florida, including officers from the University of Central Florida and Florida State University.

An escort of motorcycle officers led the hearse and family members from the Williams-Thomas Funeral Home in Jonesville to the equestrian center, where two Gainesville Police Department mounted officers led the procession around the outside of the arena and then into it.

Interment followed the service at Forest Meadows Memorial Park West in Newberry.

Deffense is survived by his wife, Marcia Ann Wolf; father, Guy Deffense of Portugal; mother, Margaret Deffense of Tampa; son, Bobby Pitsenbarger of Gainesville; brother, Luc Deffense of Jacksonville; and sisters Deirdre Greene Knowlton of Sanford and Catherine Knowles Deffense of Portugal.

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