Remembering Jessie

Kelly Byer

Sophomore’s smile touched lives of many

Credit: DKS Editors

Jessica Schenk had a smile people remembered. The 19-year-old sophomore physical education major from Port Clinton left an impression on those she met, and her death Friday left many grieving.

“Jess was an incredible, beautiful young lady that could light up the room with her smile,” said her aunt, Cathi Webb, in an e-mail interview.

Freshman Theresa Lillash said she will never forget the time Schenk invited her into her room during the first few weeks of school. Lillash was nervous about what to expect, so Schenk and her roommate told her about classes and college.

“Ever since then, she would always come say ‘hi’ to me,” said Lillash, middle childhood education major.

While Lillash wasn’t a close friend, she and Schenk would talk when they saw each other.

“There was one day where I was sitting downstairs in the lounge alone, waiting for my friend,” she said. “She walked in, and she saw me sitting there, and she ran up to me with a smile.”

Another time, Lillash said Schenk wrote “the cutest little note on my board” after Lillash won vice president of Wright Hall’s hall council.

“She was always so nice and welcoming,” Lillash said.

Schenk had many friends and a supportive, loving family, including her sister, Lara, Webb said.

“Her mother and father, Michael and Ginger Schenk, loved and adored her, and she spent a lot of time with her dad going to various sporting events,” Webb said. “Football was their favorite. She was a ‘Cheese Head.'”

Schenk’s love of the Green Bay Packers became a joke between her and Nathan Miller, sophomore physical education major. He would joke with her about Brett Favre, and Schenk teased him about the Browns.

Miller got to know Schenk at the start of the school year in classes they had together.

“When you see somebody, like, every single day for five days a week, you just kind of talk to them,” he said. “We talked about classes, just typical college stuff . We’d always joke about the Packers because she was a huge Packers fan.”

In the course Game Performance II, Schenk was in charge of warm-ups for her group in class.

“It’s just going to be weird on Monday to go in there and try and do warm-ups with her not there,” Miller said.

Schenk also paired up in groups during several classes with junior health and physical education major Gwen Schnittger, and they occasionally got lunch together.

“She was happy,” Schnittger said in an e-mail interview. “Jess loved a good laugh, and we would text each other before class (at 6:30 a.m.) and laugh about how we were the only ones up that early.”

Even though both dreaded going to class, they would laugh at each other’s mistakes when they met.

“For instance, I can’t throw a ball, and she couldn’t kick one,” Schnittger said.

Although Schnittger only knew her for four months, she learned Schenk loved life and wanted to be just like her high school physical education teacher.

“We both aspired to be health and P.E. teachers someday,” Schnittger said. “We talked about our plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas break and our boyfriends, as well.”

Schenk was also an active runner. Miller said she was involved in cross country and track in high school and ran a half marathon in Columbus.

She planned to run a 5k race Saturday, Schnittger said.

“She loved track, and we had plans this summer for her to come to Portland, Ore., where I live,” Webb said.

Schenk was a fan of Steve Prefontaine and his track career at the University of Oregon, and Webb had said she would show her the track where he ran.

“We will all miss her very much, and our lives will never be the same,” Webb said.

Schenk’s optimistic personality is what Lillash said she would miss most.

“I think I’ll definitely just miss seeing her and seeing her happy,” she said.

Lillash also said not knowing the reason for Schenk’s death has made it more difficult, and some students, including herself, have taken it hard.

The county coroner’s office confirmed her death was caused by asphyxiation Saturday, according to a report from The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. University officials have said foul play was not suspected.

Miller said he and Schnittger have talked and are trying to deal with things as best they can.

“A lot of us went home, just to kind of hang out and get away for a little bit and go to our family and friends for support,” Schnittger said.

“We’re trying to stay positive, but we’re just in the denial stage,” Miller said.

But Schenk’s caring and cheerful attitude is one Schnittger said she would remember.

“It was never hard to get a smile out of her,” she said. “Jessie will be greatly missed.”

Contact enterprise reporter Kelly Byer at [email protected]