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Eckerd College Mourns the Tragic Loss of Jessica Gartenberg

posted on 09/03/2013

The Eckerd College community is mourning the tragic loss of Jessica "Jessi" Gartenberg, a first-year student who passed away on Friday, August 23, 2013, in a drowning accident.

Jessica Gartenberg '17 and sister Aliza

"We are a close-knit community at Eckerd—a family—and we are heartbroken by this tragic loss," said Eckerd President Dr. Donald R. Eastman III. "As we grieve for a life taken too soon, and dreams unrealized, we must be a support for each other, Jessi's friends and family."

Jessi (pictured at right with her sister, Aliza) joined the Eckerd community from St. Louis, Mo., and planned to study marine science for a career in research. A Gateway to Hope volunteer in high school, Jessi already was active in Eckerd Hillel.

As the College continues to grieve Jessi's death, we seek ways to support one another and honor Jessi's memory. Hundreds of students, along with faculty and staff, attended a candlelight vigil in Fox Hall the evening of August 23. Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Associate Chaplain Elizabeth "Libby" Shannon '05, Chaplain Douglas McMahon and Associate Professor of Rhetoric Bill Kelly—Jessi's Autumn Term professor—delivered words of comfort while alumnus Matt Rodahaver '13 offered his musical talents through guitar and song. President Eastman represented Eckerd at the funeral service that was held on August 27 in St. Louis.

Candlelight vigil for Jessica Gartenberg '17

Eckerd College Hillel, the Center for Spiritual Life and Eckerd College Organization of Students (ECOS) sponsored a memorial program on campus for Jessi. In the Jewish tradition, in lieu of flowers, mourners place small stones on the grave or headstone. In an effort to extend this tradition, for solace in the face of such pain, Eckerd community leaders provided rocks and paint at the Waterfront from August 27 to September 3 to offer students and others the opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings and grief.

Rock memorial for Jessica Gartenberg '17

"Shiva," the ritual period of mourning in the Jewish tradition, lasts for seven days. At the end of the shiva period, members of Hillel will photograph the rock memorial and send the photos to Jessi's family. Additionally, Campus Activities has arranged for a banner to be put up in West Lodge where people can add their condolence messages. 

Expressions of sympathy to Jessi's family may be sent to Anne Wetmore, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Family Relations, who will forward them to her family in St. Louis. More information can be found on the Berger Memorial Chapel website.

Memorial contributions in Jessi's name may be sent to Eckerd College or the Pacific Whale Foundation, 300 Maalaea Road, Suite 211, Wailuku, HI, 96793.

Counselors continue to be available 24 hours a day and can be reached via Campus Safety at 727-864-8269 or Residence Life through an RA.

The College continues to hold Jessi's family, friends and the whole of this Eckerd community in its thoughts and prayers.

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