This time of year we remember Jared, our nephew who died at 29 years of age. This weekend he will be remembered at Lehigh University. Here is an article related to the LU remembrance.
By: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications
January 22-28 is Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Week, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) to increase cancer awareness and promote healthy living through awareness efforts, fundraising activities and advocacy programs. The cause hits close to home for the Lehigh Men’s Basketball program, who lost one of its own at just 29 years old. Jared Hess’ legacy will be remembered prior to this Saturday’s 7 p.m. game vs. Navy, on what would have been his 40th birthday, with Hess’ family expected to be in attendance.
Ten years ago today, on January 25, 2008, the Lehigh men’s basketball lost one of its own when Jared Hess ’00 succumbed to leukemia (blood cancer).
Hess is gone, but certainly not forgotten.
As a way to remember her husband, Jared’s widow Anne has often brought their two boys, Caleb and Noah, back to Lehigh basketball games as a way to keep his memory alive.
“The boys love basketball; both of his boys are pretty athletic and enjoy sports. I believe there are a variety of ways in which you have to try and maintain a connection with someone after they die,” said Anne, who resides in Philadelphia. “We spend a lot of time with Jared’s parents and sister, so we maintain family connections and we maintain the Lehigh connection, which is just another piece in that puzzle.”
Hess was diagnosed with leukemia on May 14, 2007 and passed away eight months later, just two days before his 30th birthday. This coming Saturday (Jan. 27) would have been his 40th birthday. The diagnosis came out of the blue, especially for an otherwise healthy 29-year old former collegiate athlete.
“He just felt like he had the flu. It went on for weeks and he couldn’t shake it,” said Anne. “The hospital was really surprised that he was doing as well as he was. I think it’s a testament to how strong and healthy he was in every other aspect. When he went to the doctor, they said he needed to go to the hospital right away because his white blood cell counts were very elevated.
“From that moment on, he was in and out of the hospital getting different kinds of treatment.”
To say the news was a shock would be an understatement.
“Jared and Anne put in a call to me at work,” said Jared’s mother Christine Schumacher. “Needless to say, I was stunned. Later, when he gave us more detail about the diagnosis, as a parent, you wish it was you instead of him.”
At the time of diagnosis, Jared and Anne had one son, Caleb, who was one and a half years old, with another son on the way. Approximately four months after Jared’s diagnosis, Noah was born.
“For Jared, he was very much focused on what he could do to make sure he was here for the boys and for Anne,” said Christine.
“Being sick was frustrating for him because he had to spend a lot of time in the hospital and couldn’t be home as much as he wanted,” said Anne. “But he faced it. As difficult as it was, he faced it with a lot of courage and I did the same.
“Jared was really true to himself and true to his character, both before and after he got sick,”
Two memorial services were held for Jared, both in Philadelphia and Cincinnati (where he grew up and his parents still live today). Throughout his 29 years, Jared was someone who brought people together, an aspect of his life that came up often at his services.
“Jared always wore a welcoming face… a smiling face… a face that was comfortable,” said Jared’s father Hal Hess. “I don’t know how many times it was mentioned by people who were giving tributes.”
“The things I remember most about Jared have to do with his character,” said Matt Logie ’03, who was a freshman when Jared was a senior. “I remember him helping on freshmen move-in day and not moving in his teammates, but moving in everyone else. Here was an All-Patriot League senior, going out of his way to help move in students that he really wouldn’t share much social interaction with on campus. That really spoke to his selflessness and desire to help others.”
Jared was a unifier even before his time at Lehigh. Bringing people together was part of who he was.
“One of the first things I heard, not from Jared, but from people at his high school (Winton Woods) was that this tall, Caucasian basketball player – instead of going and sitting with the other white kids – went and sat in the middle of the African American kids,” said Jared’s father, a teacher at the district’s middle school. “That’s how he grew up and that’s who he was.”
On the basketball court, Hess was an All-League player, earning second team laurels in 1999-00. He finished his career with 1,139 points, which still stands 25th in school history.
“By the time Jared graduated, he was a confident leader and team captain who had transformed himself into one of the best players in the Patriot League,” said Dan Handerhan ’99. “One of the things that stands out to me is how Jared’s athleticism would take people by surprise, but those who played with him on a daily basis weren’t surprised at all. His dunks were legendary and we often called him the ‘Dunking Mennonite.'”
During Hess’ tenure, Lehigh struggled in wins and losses, but Hess was that person who kept his team focused on its goals and aspirations.
“Jared was a winner, but also a good loser,” said Hal. “I think some of the impact that he had was helping level the emotions of his teammates and getting the best out of them. There was one time that he basically confronted some teammates about their behavior and asked, what are you doing? Why are you here?”
Hess’ impact proved tangible when his junior year, the Mountain Hawks were 0-12 in Patriot League play and the season could have gone in a negative direction. Instead, Hess helped orchestrate a 53-45 Patriot League Tournament upset of second-seeded and defending champion Navy. Hess scored a game-high 20 points.
Hess is gone, but certainly not forgotten. He left many great memories on the basketball court, but his impact off the court is what people will remember most.
“Jared and I, along with Ryan Krueger ’00 (and former Lehigh assistant coach), lived in the same apartment as seniors,” said Rich Haas, current Assistant Athletic Director for Sales and Marketing at Lehigh. “Jared’s poise, composure, and maturity was so impressive. He was a tremendous leader. He was successful in everything he did, from basketball to academics to singing. He sang the national anthem before home games and then came out and hit a jumper with perfect form moments later. He could do it all.”
“When I heard about his diagnosis it was heartbreaking. It just didn’t seem fair,” said Logie. “Here was a guy who took great care of his body, had a strong faith and was a great husband and father. It hurt. Jared’s loss has stayed with me in a major way. He was a guy you want to model yourself after and I couldn’t have been more fortunate to have known him when I did.”
Time has passed, but those memories have not diminished. Hess’ impact is lasting.
“When I go back to Lehigh with the kids, I still run into people who knew Jared,” said Anne. “Most people will always stop and talk with me for a while. It’s obvious that Jared made an impact on their lives because they still remember him and they still want to have those conversations.”
Those conversations are one of many ways to keep Jared’s memory alive. Other ways are to recognize Hess’ birthday (Jan. 27) and the day he was taken from us all too soon (Jan. 25).
“Most years, we try to make it up to Lehigh around Jared’s birthday,” said Anne. “There’s always a game in conjunction with remembering his birthday every year and oftentimes, it’s the Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers week.
“We’ve been connected with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society ever since our first Light Night Walk in 2008. We’ve done some fundraising and Jared’s sister (Alison Schumacher), actually now works for the Leukemia Lymphoma society in donor development. I know that the American Cancer Society does similar good and very important work.”
Jared’s parents and sister also remember him with a 24-hour memorial candle.
“The evening preceding the day of death, the candle is lit,” said Christine. “The candle extinguishes itself in 24 hours.”
The candle extinguishes itself, but Jared’s memory lives on.