Former South Street restaurant worker and artist Donn DesChaine died Sept. 29 of complications from emphysema. He was 63.
DesChaine worked at Lickety Split and Judy’s Café on South Street throughout the 1970s and ’80s, serving as a food-prep and salad worker.
DesChaine was a native of California and moved to Philadelphia with a boyfriend in the early ’70s.
He acquired his nickname, Mondo, while working at Judy’s, said longtime friend Diane Keller, also a former café employee.
“The whole South Street community was very gay-friendly back in the ’70s, so he really felt at home there. There was just this whole cast of characters on South Street that really created the restaurant renaissance at that time.”
Once he left both eateries, DesChaine took on house-painting jobs before heading back to California in the 1990s.
Keller said he lived with his sister in the northern California mountains for several years before moving to Eureka, where he worked as the kitchen manager for a nonprofit homeless shelter.
DesChaine struggled with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for a number of years and, unable to work, moved back to Philadelphia in 2010. He moved in with Keller and her husband, Joel Spivak, also a longtime friend of DesChaine.
Keller said DesChaine collected disability compensation and, although he couldn’t work full-time, exercised his passion for the arts.
DesChaine was a member of innovative arts group Dumpster Divers, whose members craft artwork out of recycled products. Pieces of his work, which included jewelry composed of found objects, are on exhibit at the group’s gallery at 604 South St.
“He was very good-natured and this positive, creative energy,” Keller said. “He cared an awful lot about people and had a crazy sense of humor. He was a loving friend and a loyal friend and is going to be missed by a lot of people.”
DesChaine donated his body to science, Keller said, and memorial plans are still in the works.
Those interested in participating in a memorial event can contact Keller at 215-389-7082 or [email protected].
Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].