HOLMBERG: Who was ‘Gus’ Deeds?

BATH COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) — Like virtually all journalists in this town, I know and like Creigh Deeds. He’s one of the most laid-back, regular-Joe kind of politicians who ever walked through the General Assembly, admiring the beautiful artwork that grace the walls every session.

He’s a music lover, and the kind of guy who made a point of saying something warm and positive when my own world was a little upside-down.

I didn’t know his 24-year-old son, Austin Creigh “Gus” Deeds, who police believe attacked his father and then shot himself to death this morning in their Millboro home. My former co-workers at the Times-Dispatch, Mike Martz and Jim Nolan, are reporting that the family had called for help because of Gus’ mental distress on Monday, and he had been evaluated and released. They also reported he had dropped out of William & Mary.

Gus Deeds (Facebook)

Gus Deeds (Facebook)

Gus Deeds was very passionate about music, particularly old-time music. He played the banjo left handed. That’s one of the few pictures of himself he posted. He’s also playing in one of his father’s campaign photos.

He was into a wide variety of music, including rock oldies like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and Jim Morrison to country legends like Willie Nelson and Hank Williams, to pop and urban acts like Michael Jackson, Biggie Smalls and Tupac.

He was into the campus group “The Circle,” which provides opportunities for musicians and singers to jam, and the William & Mary Old-Timey Music Club and the Music of Brazil seminar.

He wrote that his activities were homesteading and survivalism, instrument-making, blacksmithing, herbal medicine, wine-making and “worshipping Christ.”

His 2009 arrest for underage drinking was widely publicized during his father’s gubernatorial campaign, but apart from the wine-making reference, alcohol is absent from his Facebook site.

Gus Deeds was also a counselor and instructor at summer camp in Rockbridge County called Nature Camp, the camp’s president of the board of directors told me.

Nature Camp in a non-profit that brings fifth-graders through high-schoolers to the breathtaking George Washington Forest for fun and instruction about science and conservation. Gus worked there last summer.

His favorite movies included “Braveheart,” “The Lord of The Rings” Trilogy, “Dude, Where’s My Car,” “Borat” and “Bruno.”

Gus was also into the Bath County Area Swap and Sell, Jack Mason’s Tavern, the Coal River Mountain Watch, Douthat State Park and the Presbyterian Campus Ministry at JMU and Beyond. He also like video games like Morrowind and Tribes Ascend.

His inspirational people: Chief Crazy Horse, Oscar Wilde, French composer Hector Berlioz, Errol Flynn, the Apostle Peter and Joan of Arc.

Among his favorite books is Stealing Heaven, the story of a coal-mining company’s takeover of a West Virginia town, and Spartina, a novel about a New England man trying to find his way through his boat.

Gus Deeds wrote that his interests were solitude, God and women.

There are no mentions of the demons he faced.

Gus wrote that he spoke Arabic and Spanish (one of his posts was in Spanish) and didn’t appear to have his father’s passion for politics. His political views:  “Too busy with love to care.”

CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George spoke with two people who knew Gus.

“Big personality, a sweet kid… a great sense of humor,” Diane Dudley said.

“In class he was my favorite kind of student, he was ready to be challenged by the material and ready to challenge the material—ready to challenge  me,” Max Katz said, a teacher at William & Mary.

Gus had been a student at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg.

“William & Mary is very saddened to hear this tragic news. Gus Deeds was a member of the William & Mary community. He had been enrolled as a student at William & Mary since 2007, though not continuously. He withdrew from the College last month and was not currently enrolled at the time of his death. Our hearts go out to the entire Deeds family,” William & Mary Associate Vice President Communications and University Relations Brian Whitson wrote in a statement.

16 comments

  • Jakob

    Gus was a counselor at a summer camp, Nature Camp, in Vesuvius, VA. He’d been a counselor for at least 3 years and called it his second home. I believe that one can gain valuable information from talking to the staff there. I myself was once a camper there. Everyone loved him.

  • chris

    Mental illness is the same is cancer, it can strike all of a sudden and be just as deadly. Obviously this young man was sick. Not blaming anyone, because he didn’t get treatment. It is what it is, in an overburdened system. But look, for a lot more funding and attention in the future to mental health in this state. Maybe something good will come out of this, and prevent future tragedies.

  • Yawanna be

    The same thing happened( but in reverse roles) Sunday in a Henrico home but all failed to mention the deceased father mental status.

  • Dustin Cavanaugh

    Schizophrenia does NOT come on fast. It comes on slowly which is why it’s often unrecognized by not only others but the person themselves who may suffer from it. My father is schizophrenic and so was my grandfather. It’s something I worry about all the time. I try my best to stay educated and get help whenever my mental health is not so hot. Well when they will actually GIVE HELP. I am not diagnosed as schizophrenic currently. Bipolar type 1, however I am among other things.

    • athynz

      While that’s not outside the realm of possibility at the same time it’ll be interesting to see what they find in the autopsy. You say he’s a druggie – if they do not find recreational or non-prescribed drugs in his system then I’d guess you’d lose the bet.

      • Diane

        Not necessarily a drug that he was currently taking, but perhaps drugs taken previously that altered his thinking. I fear that more people will develop mental illness from “using” drugs that begin their mental spiral downward.

    • Ben

      Barbara is an idiot that doesn’t understand mental illness. Betcha!

      Your assumption doesn’t serve any positive purpose.

  • Simon

    I Knew Gus, I was a camper at nature camp, he called me one of his favorite campers, sad to see him go. Yu wpildn’t expect his from him if you knew him. he’s the most laid back pacifist person you’d meet.

    • Jakob

      Exactly. Gus was my favorite counselor. He was so intelligent, peaceful, and kind. There was no indication of any mental illness or anything.

    • Katie

      He was my favorite Nature Camp counsler too, always playing the guitar and smiling. It’s surprising that someone as sweet and calm as Gus would go like this. RIP

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