Community remembers Jesse

"Hundreds of people sat or stood on the grass outside Freeland Hall Thursday to say their goodbyes to Jesse Travis, the 18-year-old South Whidbey High School graduate who lost his life in an automobile accident on June 20.Travis was thrown from the car in the accident on Coles Road. The driver of the car, Noboru Jones, also suffered a serious head injury, but he is recovering and was present at Thursday's ceremony.Travis' parents, John Rogers and Robin Farrand, sat in chairs among their hundreds of supporters. In front under the towering, ivy-covered fir trees was a piano, a few folding chairs and an easy chair -- Jesse's favorite. Several of his friends and his sister Leah Claire took turns sitting in the chair, telling stories about this remarkable youth.Family spokesman Steve Farrand, Jesse's uncle, thanked the literally hundreds of people who have come by the house in the last week. It's been a real solace to all of us. Later, a letter from the family was read in which the family's appreciation was expressed, and in which they blamed no one for the tragic accident.Jesse was a particularly bright boy from the beginning and delighted his parents with his comments during long road trips in his very early years. Even at a very young age he could more than hold his own in a debate. Once, at the age of 3, while being scolded by his mild mannered father, Jesse interjected, You are not a pleasure to be with, you just like to scare little boys. That put an end to the scolding. By grade school, he was known as Jesse Rogers, attorney at law. He later adopted Travis as his last name.Jesse's early teachers stood up, microphone in hand, to share their memories. Dale Gray, his fifth grade teacher, described him as a shining star.Pat Westling, who had Jesse in second grade, said he was one of those students who stand out in her mind even after 30 years of teaching. She remembered that he not only read every book in her second grade classroom, but made his way through most of the books in the library that year.Jackie Gelsten, third grade teacher, recalled one reading period. She walked around the classroom, checking on how the kids were doing and what book they were tackling. While her other students were reading children's books, Jesse was deep into Shogun, an epic historical novel set in Japan. She recalled Jesse's comment when she asked about the book: It's a very interesting plot; I don't really like that boy/girl stuff, though.One woman, a dinner guest in Jesse's house when he was 7, recalled that she made a pompous statement, and Jesse couldn't help but respond. He totally demolished my argument in two seconds -- I never looked at him the same way again.As the stories were being told, John Rogers sat with his arm around his wife, Robin Farrand. At times they smiled, other times they shared tears with many in the crowd.Jesse's teenage friends were all struck by his intelligence and unquenchable curiosity. He was a National Merit Semi-Finalist who could have chosen Harvard or Berkeley, but instead he chose the Marine Corps. Dale Gray, his fifth grade teacher, said she was initially shocked by that decision, but soon realized, It was just like Jesse. His recruiting sergeant told the crowd he felt honored to have known Jesse.Friend Jesse Ellison said Jesse Travis lived his life with utmost confidence -- I always envied him for that.Nick Yacono said Jesse was part of a group who called themselves The Young Gentlemen's Club, whose members shared certain ideas. We had our ideas, and he was our banner, Yacono said. He embodied everything we pretended we all were.Yacono remembered Jesse as always kind, always fun, but he never let anyone push him around -- unless he felt he needed to.Another friend, Jamie Watson, was in the car during the accident that claimed Jesse's life. Watson read a Langston Hughes poem, ending with, I loved my friend.Other friends, including Damien Sidhu and Andy Gilbert, told funny and touching stories that described Jesse's passion for life and his fearlessness. He had so much passion, said Gilbert. He knew what was important and he knew what wasn't important.When Jesse's sister Leah Claire took the microphone the hundreds present listened intently. Others had told stories about how much Jesse loved Leah, and how he had taken care of his little sister through the years.With her voice breaking, Leah described a brother of extremes -- one who got straight A's his first three years in high school, and then dropped three classes his senior year so he could go to the beach and sleep in -- he either got 4.0's or zeroes, she said.Leah's final advice may have been heeded by many that day.Go home and tell your brother or sister that you love them, she said. And whatever you do, remember Jesse."

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