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Jessica Driscoll Longhurst

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ALBION, Mich. -- Jessica Driscoll Longhurst (”Jessie,” aka “Messy Jessie”) came into our lives on July 24, 1984. She was born and lived in Albion and gave her family and friends the gift of love and compassion until her tragic death in an automobile accident in Australia on April 10, 2005. Jessie was a junior at Albion College and was enjoying a great adventure “Down Under” as part of a study abroad program.

After her death, we as a family gave much thought about this obituary. We began by listing out her numerous accomplishments and honors she received in academics, sports, leadership, and community service. While we were working on this, we all realized that Jessie would probably scold us if we focused on these because she would not want us to be bragging about her. So, we decided to tell you about Jessie’s gifts, both those she was blessed with and developed through her life, and also some of the gifts she gave to her family, many friends and communities.

Jessie was gifted as a student and athlete. She loved being challenged in school and respected those teachers and professors who held high expectations for her and who respected and drew out the strengths of the students they served. She felt the same way about her coaches, especially Mary Ann Egnatuk, who brought out and cultivated her athletic, teamwork, and leadership skills - Jessie was gifted with a strong body, persistence and determination, and a healthy competitive spirit. She was a confident and articulate public speaker and she felt very comfortable with both prepared and spontaneous presentations. When she entered a room, her presence seemed to command attention and served to draw people towards her.

Jessie’s verbal skills also came in very handy when she was convincing her mother and father that it was OK for her bedroom to be messy and that the grass actually looked better when it was uncut and long.

Also among her gifts was the remarkable ability to remember people’s names after meeting them only once. (Isn’t it nice when someone remembers your name?) We also envied her ability to know all the words to popular songs after hearing them only a couple times.

Her gifts to others are far more important. To help people understand what we mean, we wrote the following piece titled “Jessie’s Gifts” so that we could share what we feel is the essence of her life. We hope that it helps to shine a light upon the impact she has made and will continue to have on so many people:

It is our family’s faith in God and our belief in the goodness of the human family that we are all born with an unlimited capacity for compassion.

Imagine, if you will, that we arrive on this earth with a tiny treasure chest called compassion in our hearts. All of us, whether we live in Albion, Townsville, Queensland, Australia, or anywhere and everywhere in between, if we are provided sufficient love, structure, and guidance, are capable of expanding the size of our own treasure chests.

When we have the courage to show others kindness, gentleness, patience, generosity, an early sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others - all the things that compassions is made up of - our treasure chests get bigger, and bigger, and bigger - it is necessary to have the courage because, sad to say, compassion, although playing a central role in all of the major religions (in the Buddhist faith it is called “nying je” and is considered to be the supreme emotion), our society tends to more highly value and reward other traits, skills and characteristics. In fact, some of the most compassionate people become targeted as weak, “different,” or as pushovers to be taken advantage of.

Our Jessie gave her family, friends and communities the gift of compassion. She knew that merely feeling these things by oneself is insufficient, and that she must make visible to others the compassion she felt for them. One of many, many examples of “Jessie’s Gift” is her love and dedication to the mentoring of young people. (She probably didn’t realize that she in fact mentored many adults, as well.)

To express our appreciation of being the recipients of Jessie’s many gifts, we ask that each of you do whatever you can to preserve and perpetuate the Jessie’s Gift Mentoring Program, a collaboration of Albion College and the Albion Public Schools.

Surviving and so proud of Jessie are her parents, Dr. Jim and Lynn Longhurst; her sisters, Jamie Lynn, Jordan Elizabeth and Abby Jane Longhurst; her maternal grandparents, Fred and Alice Driscoll; her paternal grandparents, Jim and Evelyn Gay; her maternal uncles, Fred, Bill, John, and John B.; maternal aunts, Rita, Cathy, Toni, and Marlene; paternal uncles, David and Doug; paternal aunts, Tanner and Barb; and “adopted” uncle, James Cunningham.

Since all her friends are “special” to her and to us, those of you who knew Jessie should just imagine that your name is right here. Missing her too are Dorothy, Margaret, Betty, and Debby - the Longhurst menagerie of cats.

Preceding Jessie in death is her paternal aunt, Jane Ellen Longhurst and her paternal uncle, Arthur William Longhurst.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 15, 2005, 1 p.m. at Goodrich Chapel in Albion. To make a donation to the Jessie’s Gift Mentoring Program, please make checks payable to Albion College noting “Jessie’s Gift” and mail to Albion College Development Office, 611 E. Porter St., Albion, MI 49224.
Published in Bennington Banner on Apr. 14, 2005
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