Jesse loved creating, nearly as much as he loved making people smile. He had an artist’s soul and a joyous spirit, both which left this world far too soon.
His mother, Lynn, realized early on that her son possessed an artistic talent. At 6 years old, Jesse drew a picture of a mad scientist, complete with wiry hair, white lab coat, jars of potions and a crackling ball of electricity.
His skill grew as he did and he was accepted into the prestigious South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville when he was a junior in high school. Jesse thrived amid the concentrated training, developing his talent in pencils, oils and 3-D metal sculptures. His finished work showed the influences of his favorite artists, Gustav Klimt and Salvador Dali.
Jesse never lost his excitement for art in his young life. He hoped to go to college to become a high school art teacher to share his passion with others, and to bring the Polaroid camera back to mainstream America.
He loved scary movies, music of all types and reading, particularly the Harry Potter series. He loved his friends, Shannon, Chris and countless others, and enjoyed spending time with his family throughout his short life.
Jesse’s smile was simply beautiful. On many occasions, his mother watched her son’s charm tame even the gruffest of people. When he started laughing, everyone around had to join in. And Jesse wasn’t afraid to help that along. He’d wear fake glasses, play air guitar with a broom and dance around in a spandex body suit to get his friends laughing. Jesse’s family and friends won’t ever forget how he could make them smile in the saddest of times.
Those people could have used Jesse’s personality and wit during those dark days in August, 2008 when he was killed by a drunk driver while riding his bicycle home from work over the Blossom Street Bridge in Columbia, SC. Jesse was only 19 years old.
That day in the hospital was a nightmare. But, as Jesse would have wanted, hope sprung from tragedy. He had decided as a teen-ager, getting his first driver’s license, that he wanted his organs donated to help others when he passed away. As Jesse lay in the ICU, Lynn didn’t hesitate when asked about donation as she honored her son’s wishes in her most painful moment. Jesse gave the gift of life to seven people.
In April, 2010, Rachael Bronson, Executive Director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, spearheaded a concurrent resolution from the South Carolina Legislature to name the bike lanes on the bridge where Jesse lost his life, Jesse’s Way.
Kathy Schumpert a family support counselor with LifePoint was a Godsend, helping Jesse’s family through the organ donation process and remains a friend of his family. Lynn now keeps Jesse’s memory alive today by volunteering with LifePoint and Donate Life South Carolina. She truly appreciates what those organizations do to further organ, eye and tissue donation and is proud that her son is “still a force to be reckoned with.”