Friendships can develop in myriad ways.

Sometimes, they endure for many years and become so meaningful that, over time, friends seem like family.

This is certainly true for Jeanine and David Deas of Waterville, and their friend Joey Molina.

On Thursday morning, they sat in their living room with Molina, 34, his wife, Trecia, 36, and their children, Sofia, 2, and Talia, 4 months, during the last hours of the Molinas’ four-day visit from Pennsylvania.

While the Molinas are not related to the Deases by blood, they are family. Tight family.

Joey came to the Deas family on a charter bus from New York City, 25 years ago. He was one of many children who spilled out of the vehicle in the Shaw’s supermarket parking lot, looking for their volunteer host families who had signed up with the Fresh Air Fund program to give them a two-week experience living in rural Maine. Founded in 1877, the Fresh Air Fund works with thousands of children from New York City’s underserved communities.


“Joey was wearing a name tag and it was the first time we met him,” Jeanine Deas recalled. “He and our son, Nathaniel, who was 8, hit it off so well, the two weeks flew right by. At the end, Nathaniel said, ‘Are you coming back next summer?’ And Joey said, ‘Yup’ — and he returned for 10 summers.”

At her home in Waterville on Thursday, Jeanine Deas shares pictures of Joey Molina taken during his Fresh Air visits to Maine. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

David Deas remembered Joey as quiet and reserved.

“He had a very gentle spirit and I enjoyed him,” he said. “I was working at Sappi (the paper mill) and I’d take vacations around the time that he was here.”

Joey loved Maine, and that first summer, he and Nathaniel chatted about the stars in the Maine sky, comparing them to the lights of New York City where stars usually weren’t visible. Joey packed his suitcase with Maine rocks to take back to New York.

“Coming from the city, I didn’t know what country life was, basically,” he said.

The Deas family lived in Winslow at the time and had a pool, so the boys swam every day. They went camping, traveled to folk festivals, visited relatives and attended a family wedding. Joey became so familiar to everyone, he was part of the extended family.


He invited the Deases to his high school graduation in Manhattan — and they were delighted to go.

“Finally, after 10 years, we got to meet his family,” Jeanine recalled. “We were invited to his wedding too. Trecia contacted me and was looking for pictures of Joey’s time in Maine so she could make a collage for their wedding. They were married in 2016 in New York.”

Little Sofia and Talia have become like grandchildren to the Deas, who like to say they had Fresh Air kids and now they have Fresh Air grandkids.

“Sofia already calls Jeanine ‘Nana,'” Trecia said.

Jeanine Deas and Sofia Molina, 2, share a moment as they wait for the blueberry pie to finish baking in the oven at the Deas home in Waterville on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

David Deas talks about Joey, who now is a bus driver for New York City Transit, as if he were his biological son, recalling that he learned to swim and ride a bicycle in Maine during his summers here.

“When he first came to us, he didn’t know how to ride a bicycle and now he’s driving a bus in New York City,” David quipped.


The first thing Joey would do when he arrived at the Deas’ home each summer was grab a big net and clean out every single bug from the pool, according to Jeanine.

“He would not go in if there were any bugs in the water. We had the cleanest pool in Winslow,” she laughed.

Jeanine Deas talks with Trecia and Joey Molina as they are reflected in the mirror Thursday at the Deas residence in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Trecia, his wife, grew up in Jamaica, came to the U.S. when she was 27, works as a patient care assistant, and is studying to be a nurse — all while helping to raise the two children.

“I love her,” Jeanine said. “She’s adorable, and it’s been so much fun having them here. I’m going to be sad when they leave.”

Jeanine, who works as a home visitor for Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, wrote a children’s book last year titled “Twinkle, Twinkle, Where Are You?,” based on a moment when she was looking at a picture of her late mother, who died two and a half years ago.

“I said to her, ‘Where are you? I love you so much, wherever you are.'”

The book, she said, is a message of hope about staying connected when distance separates you.

“That really sums up why we are in touch with Joey. When you love someone, you have that connection, that invisible energy, even when you’re apart.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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