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Todd's prepared talk (wasn't actually delivered)
(Todd prepared this talk but ended up reading Ryan Baughman's letter.)
Jake was nine years younger than me. For the first couple yeas of my life, I enjoyed Jake. He was a cute, fun, baby brother. Then I became a self-absorbed teenager and he became a pesty little brother. We still had fun times together but they were fewer and farther between. We just didn’t have a lot in common.
After I graduated from high school I went to BYU Provo for a year and then on my mission. The year before I graduated from college Stephanie and I spent a summer in Hawaii and were able to spend time around Jake again. Fortunately I had turned into a wonderful young man and was no longer the self-absorbed person I had been, so one would think things would have been wonderful, but Jake had become the self-absorbed teenager. While we did not have a bad relationship by any means, we did not do much together either.
Then Jake went on his mission. I want to speak a little bit about the Jake that we were blessed to come to know after his mission.
Near the end of his mission, we were corresponding via e-mail and Jake mentioned that he was thinking about coming out to Virginia to spend some time with us. He wanted to get to know our kids. I suggested he do what Brady had done and come spend the summer. I told him I could line him up with a good job paying twice what he could make in Provo , and that Stephanie and I were building a new house and could sure use his help, so he came. Looking back it was truly a blessing to be able to spend literally hundreds of hours working late into the night side by side with him, then to make the 40 minute drive back to our house and talk. He was always so willing to help. Oftentimes I would give him the tedious and dirty work, just because that’s what older brothers are supposed to do, and he would never complain or refuse.
I work for a very large builder and Jakes day job was his introduction to corporate America . I knew he enjoyed his job but I was constantly amazed by how well he did with it. Those that he worked with were too, telling me no matter what task they gave him he was always up for the challenge and did a fine job. Having been with the company for over five years, I know most of the three hundred employees in our Division. There were very few days that I did not hear from someone that they had met my younger brother. By the time he left to go back to school, I was being referred to as “Jakes brother”. I half kidded to some of my colleagues that they needed to keep a tight leash on him so he wouldn’t ruin the reputation I had made for myself and was always assured that he was working very hard and doing a fine job. He managed to build a strong relationship with everyone he worked with. The secretaries and accountants loved him. The sales lady for his community was constantly taking him to lunch to repay him for all the favors he did for her and her buyers. His boss was like a best friend to him. And his bosses boss is, I think, the best example of the influence Jake had on people. His name was John and he is a pretty serious individual. He is a great guy, just one that is business first. While most of his colleagues referred to him as Jakey Cupcakey, John called him the Snake. John is a catholic and a devout Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan. Jake started talking smack early on when he realized the BYU football season opener was against Notre Dame. Before Jake left to go back to school he had purchased a $44.00 BYU golf polo shirt for John and had secured a promise that after BYU won John would wear the shirt. I am proud to report to Jake today that John not only showed up for work the day after the game wearing the polo but he kept it on all day. When news of Jakes passing spread through the Division I received calls and e-mails from people that I did not even know he had met. The common theme of those calls was what a shame that he got called back so soon, he had such a life ahead of him. We know that while it is painful to lose him, he must have some more important things he needs to take of.
Jake was not only loved and respected by people at work, but pretty much whomever he came into contact with. When Stephanie told one of our neighbors what had happened she remarked how when she and her husband had met Jake, even though it was only a very brief encounter, when he left they both remarked what a neat person he was and how impressed they were with him. There are others who have told us similar stories.
Most importantly to us, the kids loved Jake. They truly enjoyed spending time with him, doing whatever the situation allowed. Sometimes it was something as simple as a game of “Ha Ha, made you look”, other times it was wrestling or being taught to swim. There was one trip we took to a friends lake house where Jake literally spent hours out on the lake taking the kids for rides in the paddle boat. And then, having not learned his lesson, he offered to take the kids on paddle boat rides again at another friends 4 th of July party. I jest saying he had not learned his lesson, but I think in reality he had learned the lesson and knew it was time well spent and was willing to help the kids have fun and also give us a break.
Everyday since Jake left us I have thanked our Heavenly Father that he took him under the circumstances that he did. Not only was it a peaceful and painless end to his life, doing something he enjoyed, but it was after Jake served an honorable mission and grew into a fine young man. Then, he systematically made his rounds this summer and spent time with us, saying his informal goodbyes, and then left, leaving us with the peace and knowledge that all was well.