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Letter from Ryan Baughman read at Jake's funeral
(Todd read this letter in place of presenting the talk he had prepared. It is from one of Todd's co-workers and Jake's supervisor over the summer.)
September 22, 2004
Dear Whetten Family,
This past summer Jake was my intern. He was only here a few months, but he made a strong impression on our team. We were shocked and saddened when we heard of Jake’s passing and this week we reminisced of our time with him. Many people have come and gone during my time here, but no one was so well liked so quickly like Jake was.
Jake endeared himself to our entire team through his confident and laid back personality. He had a great sense of humor and took the teasing inherent with being the low-man-on-the-totem-pole in stride. You can imagine how my construction staff reacted when they learned that Jake’s nickname in high school was “Jakey Cup Cakey” (I should note that Jake did not offer that piece of information. I discovered it on the back of one of his pictures). Surprisingly, Jake’s reaction was similar to my staffs’, uncontrolled laughter, and I learned that Jake had a unique gift – the ability to laugh at himself.
Jake also endeared himself to our team through his competency. He took on and completed everything we threw at him. He was bright and resourceful and had an ability to figure things out with little guidance or instruction. Word spread and before long he was not only doing projects for me, but also for my sales manager, my senior manager and other project managers. My senior manager put Jake in charge of outfitting the fitness center. Jake did the research, acquired the bids and made a recommendation as to which equipment provider to use. His recommendation was accepted and implemented. Because Jake was an exceptional performer, I frequently tempted him to forgo his college experience to stay on as my assistant.
But his performance was only part of the reason we wanted him to stick around. He became so well liked by our team because he showed that he cared about us. He spent hours one Saturday driving from Virginia to Maryland and back again, helping my sales manager transport her boyfriend, who had broken his neck, from the hospital to his home. On another occasion, he came into work at 6:30 AM on a Saturday to set up for a community picnic, which he worked at the entire day. And on another occasion, he came to work late on a Friday night when I had forgotten my keys and needed to get into my office. His selflessness was as real as his concern for others and we felt it.
For three months Jake sat at a desk in my office. Our conversations extended beyond business topics and into personal ones. We talked about our missions. We talked about our futures and our families. We talked about goals and girls (he was still adjusting to the idea of being alone with the opposite sex, but admitted to my sales manager on one occasion that when he met the right one, he would be married within three months and would soon have eight kids!). From our conversations I sensed that Jake’s heart and priorities were in the right place. His actions spoke to this as well.
In a work environment where the language and conversation were consistent with the stereotypes of a construction site, Jake would play church music on his lap top, loud enough for everyone to hear. He lived the gospel unabashedly and spoke openly and enthusiastically to our team about his mission. I know the gospel gives us perspective and comfort in the face of tragedies such as Jake’s untimely death. But I believe there is an increased sense of peace knowing that at the time of his death, Jake was living his life in a way that reflected nothing but good upon the name of his family and upon the name of our church. My thoughts and prayers are with you.