|Jesse Parker was a 17 year old avid runner, participating in track and cross country at Tomah High School. He loved to run and he loved life. Our community mourns his tragic death in an auto accident while on a family vacation on July 4, 2009. Those who knew Jesse recall a kind, thoughtful kid with an easy smile, blonde hair he would toss often, and a prankster who loved to make others laugh. They also remember his deep hope to make a difference. He was always looking out for the underdog.
Jesse loved life completely and he lived it intensely. When he ran, he was seldom the fastest, but always the sweatiest. When he played his drums he may not have always been in beat, but played with his whole heart. When he was in a group, he was seldom the center of attention, yet his smile would light up the room.
Jesse is the beloved son of Brad & Jen Parker. As parents, they had hoped to share many lessons with their son, but in the end their son taught them the most important lessons. So many people have shared simple and profound stories of the ways Jesse touched their lives with his compassion and kindness. Jesse loved being big brother to Bria and Jacob who remember a sweet, protective brother who loved to play games and make them laugh. His death occurred while returning from a family beach vacation. That last morning, Jesse started the day with a run along the beach, a final moment of reflection and peace.
During his life Jesse impacted many through his compassion, support for social causes, and protection of those in need. Jesse believed we had an obligation to inspire hope in each other. He planned a life of service as an engineer, providing clean water through the Peace Corps. He imagined a world where each of us gave our best to those in need. A fellow student, who was struggling and being bullied, posted on Jesse’s Facebook wall, “Jesse, you will be missed. You were the one person who was always nice to me.”
Over the past years as people have shared how Jesse touched their lives, one theme has stood out; despite his talents, Jesse is not remembered for his accomplishments, for you see he was never the first to cross the finish line, but he was always the last to leave. He waited to cheer on each of his teammates and encourage their success. Jesse excelled at being a full human being and he believed in the goodness of all.
Jesse was a dreamer, in the best sense of the word. He believed we are capable of giving our bests to others with no expectations except the knowledge that giving is life’s true joy. We are thankful there are others who share in Jesse’s vision and carry forward his light. Today, through your efforts, his dreams live on. We have all shared in this goodness. Just as all good runners know, the challenge is not to be better than others, it is to be better than yourself.
Thanks Jesse for leading the way.