Demetrius Mallisham, a Baltimore mayoral neighborhood representative and liaison to the lesbian, gay and transgender community, died April 28 of multiple organ failure associated with pancreatitis at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
The Highlandtown resident was 46.
"Demetrius respected everyone, from an angry neighborhood resident or a merchant. He was a bright light in difficult situations," said Kevin Cleary, director of preparedness in the mayor's Office of Emergency Management. "He could turn anger into problem-solving. He cared about you and your concerns and would work hard and long to help. As a liaison, he was the best."
Born in Newark, N.J., he was the son of Lincoln Joe Mallisham, an Army sergeant major, and Helen Irene Trawick Mallisham, a probation officer.
In 1977, when his father was assigned to Fort Belvoir, Va., he moved to the area. He was a graduate of Alexandria's Hayfield High School, where he played varsity football and performed in a talent hunt contest — singing Lionel Richie's "Jesus is Love." He also belonged to the International Thespian Society.
"Demetrius was known as a class clown in elementary school," said his brother, Marquez Mallisham of Bristow, Va. "He would challenge the teachers by asking questions. He asked a teacher why some students were given the label 'gifted students.' He answered the question by telling her that we are all gifted in different ways."
In 1993, he received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Radford University. He became a camp counselor at the New Dominion Wilderness Program for Boys in Cumberland.
He then became a counselor at the United Methodist Children's Home in Randallstown, assisted low-income families at the Annapolis Family Support Center and was a Latin American Youth Program gang prevention counselor in Prince George's County.
He joined the administration of then-Mayor Sheila Dixon and worked in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods, serving as a liaison to North and Northeast Baltimore communities.
He remained in that role under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. In a statement, the mayor said: "All of us who worked, and loved, Demetrius knew him as being constantly upbeat, enthusiastic and eager to help."
"Demetrius was a truly dedicated public servant," said City Council member Bill Henry. "He was a consummate professional. He treated his job as a calling, a duty.
"He wanted his neighborhood to get the best possible response from the city," said Mr. Henry. "He did what he could to maximize the quality of neighborhood life. He worked long days. He'd often take public transit to and from night meetings. He didn't complain about it."
"He followed up, showed up, and obviously loved the people and neighborhoods he so diligently served as a proud member of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods," recalled City Council member Mary Pat Clarke. "Demetrius was too young and too joyful to be taken from us, leaving us shocked and grieving at such a tragic loss to family, colleagues and community alike."
Marquez Mallisham said his brother was a people person.
"He was 'Mr. Personality,'" he said. "Demetrius loved family and people from all walks of life. He never met a stranger because he would be the first to engage in a conversation with them, regardless of a language barrier."
Mr. Mallisham also served as the mayor's liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"Demetrius was a great friend to and advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," said Carlton Smith, executive director of Black Equity Baltimore. "He was an interactive and high-spirited person who left a great impression. He helped the transgender community and wanted to make sure people were safe."
His brother said Mr. Mallisham had a clear. smooth voice that touched those listening to him.
"Demetrius loved karaoke and he sang songs by Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Madonna and Whitney Houston," his brother said.
Ronald Monk, a friend who sells real estate and is based in Federal Hill, said: "Demetrius was a kind, loving, free-spirited guy who loved to be around people."