WATERVILLE — A man whose body was found in the Kennebec River following a dayslong search was described by his father Tuesday as a gifted athlete and outdoors enthusiast whose life for years was bedeviled by drug addiction.

John Lessard Jr.  Courtesy photo

The body of John Lessard Jr. was found Saturday by searchers near Fort Halifax Park in Winslow. His father, John Lessard Sr., said it appears his son drowned after Waterville police said he may have entered the river days earlier.

Police previously said the younger Lessard, 42, went into the river Aug. 21 at the north end of RiverWalk park, prompting an intensive search that lasted at least four days involving police and fire personnel and the Maine Warden Service. Dive teams, boats, a drone and an airplane were used to scan the river for signs of him.

It remains unclear what prompted him to enter the water.

The elder Lessard said his son was an outgoing, affable young man who attended Messalonskee schools. He was a strong, naturally gifted athlete who excelled at baseball and other sports — at one point being named most valuable player of his Little League all-star team.

When not competing on an athletic field or hockey rink, Lessard enjoyed riding motorcycles, four-wheeling, fishing and other outdoor pursuits, said his father, who grew up in Waterville and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida.


“When he was 6 months old I had him out on Snow Pond fishing,” he said, referring to the water in Oakland also known as Messalonskee Lake.

His son became involved in drugs in his late teens or early 20s and developed a habit he was unable to shake. He had two children who eventually were raised by others, Lessard said.

The elder Lessard was divorced from his son’s mother, and Lessard Jr. lived with her in Oakland for many years, Lessard said.

The family tried on several occasions to find treatment for him but he usually wouldn’t comply or take advantage, Lessard said.

The younger Lessard was an empathetic person who seemed to take on the qualities of his mother and others in the family who joined the medical profession to help and treat others, Lessard said.

“He was a very caring person toward other people, and had a lot of friends,” he said.

A celebration of life is planned in the coming days but details had not been finalized by Tuesday, he said.

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