The death of Thomas “Ski” Demski, famous for owning the world’s largest United States flag, was ruled a suicide, Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said Wednesday.
Demski, 72, overdosed on Tramadol, a painkiller similar to codeine in its effects, said David Campbell, a coroner’s office spokesman.
The drug was prescribed to him the day before his death Jan.19, Campbell said. It is not known why it was prescribed, but friends told authorities that Demski had been battling depression, Campbell said.
Demski had undergone multiple bypass surgery; suffered from heart disease, diabetes and gangrene; and last year told a Times columnist that “I’m just waiting to roll over and die.”
But at his funeral in January, the silver-bearded Long Beach resident was remembered for his obvious patriotism and sense of humor.
Though most men are taken to their final resting place in a fancy suit and oak casket, the eccentric Demski was buried shirtless in a mirrored, plexiglass coffin. His tattoos of flags, eagles and Santa Claus were on display for the hundreds of mourners who came to pay their last respects.
Demski was best known for his prized flags, one of which is the size of three football fields and weighs more than 3,000 pounds. It cost $80,000 and was made to earn the Guinness Book of Records’ largest flag designation. Super Flag, as Demski called it, was unfurled on the grounds of the Washington Monument on Flag Day 1982.
Other Demski flags have been displayed at Hoover Dam as the Olympic torch was carried across in 1996 and at numerous Super Bowls. Demski’s flags covered the field at Dodger Stadium for the first home game and the Rose Bowl field for UCLA’s first football game after the events of Sept. 11.
But perhaps the most poignant display of patriotism came in October when Demski hung one of his flags at the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City.