Douglas W. Thiessen

Justice Department attorney was the Maryland Republican Party's general counsel and a devoted husband and father

January 12, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Douglas W. Thiessen, a Justice Department attorney who was the Maryland Republican Party's general counsel, died Friday while on a ski outing in Mercersburg, Pa. The West River resident was 35.

He and members of his family were skiing at Whitetail resort when he was found "unresponsive on the side of a ski trail," according to a spokesman for the resort. Mr. Thiessen did not respond to cardiopulmonary resuscitation and was taken to a hospital in Hagerstown, where he was pronounced dead.

Born and raised in Chicago, he earned degrees at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and at the Wake Forest University School of Law. He moved to Maryland about 12 years ago and was a member of the Maryland and District of Columbia bars.

At his death, he was an assistant general counsel for the Parole Commission within the federal Department of Justice. He was also active in Republican politics and had been policy director for Scott L. Rolle's campaign for state attorney general in 2006.

Mr. Thiessen was named legal counsel to Maryland Republican Party in October 2007.

"Doug was a loyal Republican and a great guy who helped the party whenever he could," said Jim Pelura, state GOP chairman. "But above all, he was devoted to his wife and five children. They were his life."

His brother, Eric Thiessen of Abingdon, Va., said, "Doug loved politics as an observer and as a participant. He was intellectually stimulating to talk to."

Friends of his family said that Mr. Thiessen selected a job in Washington that allowed him to work from his home at times so that he could assist in the home schooling of his five children.

"He was the kind of father who would read to his children every night," said Teri Pickering, a neighbor. "And after dinner, he would conduct a family worship half-hour."

His pastor, the Rev. D. Steven Meyerhoff of Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Davidsonville, recalled Mr. Thiessen as a "capable, cheerful, friendly, very likable guy." He was one of the congregation's elders, and he enjoyed teaching theology and religious studies to children and adults. Mr. Meyerhoff recalled seeing him, with his wife and children, in church on Christmas Eve.

"His death is a devastating loss," Mr. Meyerhoff said. "He leaves a big hole in the congregation."

Family members said Mr. Thiessen was an accomplished skier and loved the sport.

"We had skied together since we were children," his brother said. "Doug loved the outdoors. He loved the mountains. He loved the bay. He hiked, skied, canoed and had ice-climbed in New Hampshire."

He said his brother also made it a point to involve his family in outdoor activity.

"He was very proud of his children," Eric Thiessen said. "He was a loyal person whose commitment to his nuclear family was beyond question."

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Annapolis Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 710 Ridgely Ave. in Annapolis.

In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife of 13 years, the former Sarah Horn; a son, Taylor Thiessen; four daughters, Hannah Thiessen, Heidi Thiessen, Charlotte Thiessen and Clara Thiessen, all of the family home; and his parents, Arthur and Patricia Thiessen of Chicago.

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