Photos by Angele Latham / MTSU Sidelines
In a solemn and reverent ceremony Wednesday evening, friends and family of Jackson Rumley, the MTSU student who died in a car crash on Jan. 10, held a candlelight vigil and commemoration in his name.
The gathering, which was hosted in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, was organized by Rumley’s fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, and brought many Greek families forward in a celebration of his life and impact.
“Whether you’re here because you’re a classmate, a fraternity brother, a family member, a friend, a chapter in Jackson’s life or his novel, we can all agree that Jackson has left us with something we’ll never forget,” said Shea Graves, Rumely’s “great-grand big,” fighting tears that many in the audience had already succumbed too.
Graves was the first of many friends that stepped forward to remember Rumley, sharing favorite memories, comforting words and thanking Rumley’s family.
“I want you to know, on behalf of everyone sitting in this room, you two raised an amazing, loving and respectful man,” Graves said to Rumley’s parents, Amy and Mike Rumley. “We would like to thank you for he opportunity to have the memories we have because of who he was.”
Throughout the many statements made by fellow fraternity and sorority members, a very clear picture emerged of Rumley: a kind, intelligent young man, full of life and a willingness to serve others.
“He taught us all to love one another and look out for the ones we care about,” Graves said. “He taught us all to laugh and live today like tomorrow isn’t promised. He taught us that no matter how busy life gets, there’s always time for family and friends … He taught us there’s always an ear to listen. But most importantly, he taught me to smile even in the toughest times of my life.”
A collection of carefully curated memories was presented in a slideshow to the tune of “Fireflies” by Owl City, a song that was known to all attending as Rumley’s favorite song. The memories shown only helped prove the kind and vivacious way Rumley was described: He was known to break out into song on his melodica, was infamous for his skills at “Super Smash Bros.,” could play “The Office” theme song on the piano and had once built Star Wars’ BB-8 droid.
“We all know how curious his mind was,” Graves also said. “He always wanted a challenge he could conquer. Everyone has heard about the EMP device he built that shut down the electrical system. We have all seen the robots he built from scratch.”
“Every single moment of Jackson’s time on earth was spent improving the lives of those around him,” said Hayden Schimborski, a member of Phi Kappa Tau and Rumley’s “little.” “This became clear to me when he spoke of his love for robotics and the incredibly elaborate design ideas that would benefit the greater mankind. The man was an absolute genius.”
Schimborski described how he had met Rumley during his first week at MTSU. After meeting other Phi Kappa Tau brothers, Schimborksi said Rumley immediately struck up a bond with him.
“Within my first month of living on campus, I had a genuine friend,” Schimborksi said. “Whether we were playing video games at my dorm at 2:30 in the morning or eating our hearts out at McCallies, I quickly started to realize that for the first time in my life, I was going to have a big brother … Jackson was not only my inspiration, he was everything that I wanted to be.”
After sharing their statements, students gathered around Rumley’s family to raise their blue candles in a moment of tear-filled reflection and grief.
“I hope everyone in this audience cherishes those close to them,” Schimborski said. “Thank your parents for everything they’ve ever done for you. Hug your friends a little bit harder … Jackson lived a full life in his 21 years. I intend to honor him every single day by being the kindest and most sincere version of myself that I possibly can. All I can ask is that all of you do the same … Jackson, I love you, and I miss you, big brother.”
“The crowd that gathered here today and at the funeral yesterday to pay their respects are a testament to the kind of man Jackson was,” Graves said in her closing statement. “Jackson, all I have left to say is this is not goodbye, because you will forever live inside each of us. This is a see you later. Fly high my angel, and keep doing numbers. I love you. We all love you.”
The Jackson Rumley Memorial Fund for Epilepsy GoFundMe account has been set up in light of Rumley’s death. He was diagnosed with epilepsy on Jan. 6. The goal for the fundraiser is $16,000, in memory of his number 16 baseball jersey from high school. The memorial fund will remain open until his birthday on Nov. 26. To donate, click here.
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