By Lauren Offner:

On Jan. 22, the University of Wisconsin–Stout lost a beloved student, friend, sister and daughter. Jesse Jensen, 23, passed away unexpectedly in her Menomonie home just before classes resumed for the spring semester.

Jensen was a 5th year senior in the Industrial Design program. She is remembered as being artistic, brilliant and loved by many across the campus. Instructors in the Art Department on campus acknowledged many of her designs. Jensen was described as being unfalteringly passionate about her education. Originally from Owen, Wis., Jensen loved softball and was a talented and passionate player. She is survived by her parents Steve Jensen and Julie Slobodnik, stepfather Steve Christopherson and her brother Jared Jensen.

With many questions still unanswered about Jesse’s passing, news reports have been printed in publications across central and western Wisconsin and Minnesota including Green Bay, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis. However, with no toxicology reports released or a statement from lead investigators, the actual cause of her death has not been officially declared. Therefore, no statement on her death will be made in this story.

Jensen’s roommate Anna Holl, who tried to resuscitate her the morning of her passing, encourages students across campus to remember Jensen for what she was in her life: a vivacious young woman who could make friends with even the most unforeseen person.

“The first thing most people noticed about Jesse was her smile,” said Holl.  “It shined so bright it warmed the soul. With that big, goofy grin Jesse was able to easily befriend anyone, creating a large eclectic network of friends spanning the entirety of Menomonie, and hitting every single small town back to Owen.”

Once the campus announced her passing, many flooded to social media platforms such as Facebook to express their condolences and utmost sympathy. Many of the comments touched on Jensen’s beauty and smile. They also stated how distressed they were because she was taken too soon and that she would not be forgotten.

Holl continued to express personal stories about her roommate who enjoyed making her laugh. It soon became apparent that a character such as Jensen would live forever through hilarious and touching memories.

“Jesse’s zest for life was contagious and her sense of humor constantly kept those around her on their toes.  Any random night could turn into an adventure, running from place to place like children in a schoolyard,” said Holl. “I will miss the roommate who sent me Snapchats of my cat when I was stuck at work all day, didn’t keep food in the fridge, never noticed we had a toaster and accurately foretold she would never clean the bathroom as long as she lived here. I’ll miss the friend who set her alarm for when I needed to be woken up. I will also miss her big goofy smile always brightening my day, the non-judgmental listening ear and easy-going personality. Memories I hold dear are filling our dining room up with popcorn and holding wrestling matches, visiting every park in a 10-mile radius and all the random talks that made me forget time existed. She was the first person I would go to for car advice and the last friend I talked to every day.”

Jensen’s death has certainly been devastating for those she had touched, but for those who didn’t personally know her, a lesson in empathy can resonate with them. Students who are close with their roommates and friends need to remember how every little thing in their daily lives can change in an instant and to treasure the time they share at this college together.

Jensen’s best friend, Johnna Graycarek, also says she’ll never forget Jensen’s lively personality and the times they shared working together at Lakeside Lounge in town. They also shared many other moments including ice fishing and participating in Halloween dress up parties at their workplace.

“I loved her bubbly personality and willingness to lend a helping hand. It didn’t matter what we were doing, we were always laughing and having fun even if we were working on homework,” says Graycarek, a UW–Stout student in Business Administration. “Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the endless funny and crazy memories we made. I will forever cherish them.”

Young people often forget the reality of mortality, but the loss of Jesse Jensen puts into perspective how fragile life truly is and how students need to appreciate their friendships every day.

“If I could thank her for just one thing, it would be for believing in me. She always believed I was going to do great things, and I will miss her unwavering confidence and loyalty,” said Holl.

Funeral services for Jensen were held on Jan. 25, 2014, in her hometown of Owen at Maurina Schilling Funeral Home. Chancellor Sorensen released the following statement to the campus:

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Jesse’s family and friends, and we offer our condolences to them on the loss of this very promising young woman. We will do everything possible to help them find comfort during this time of great sorrow.”

Counseling services are still being provided for students affected by Jensen’s loss. Call 715-232-2468 to schedule an appointment.


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