In Memory of Brett Jarolimek

Two weeks ago, I walked in to Pacific Northwest College of Art to teach a photography class. Inside the entrance, I was saddened to see a memorial for Tracey Sparling, the 19-year old who had been killed when a cement truck turned into her bike lane and crushed her. I had heard of the accident, but hadn’t known she was a current PNCA student, and though I didn’t know Tracey, her part in the PNCA community brought the tragedy one step closer to me, and I was deeply saddened by our loss.

Just 3 years ago, this same spot in the entrance to PNCA showcased a memorial to my dear friend and classmate Sebastian Garrido-Bor. To this day, I will catch myself glancing at a tall, thin, dark-haired stranger on a sidewalk or store, and think, “Hey, is that Sebastian…,” wanting to go and shake his hand, give him a hug, and hear him say in his South American accent, “How are you doing, my friend?” only to be reminded of the hole he left in the world when he died of cancer.

Last Tuesday, on my way out from teaching an evening photography class at the school, I noticed that Tracey’s photograph had been removed from its pedestal. The next morning, I entered the school to find the same pedestal topped with a new photograph and flowers. In the frame was a yearbook photograph of my friend Brett Jarolimek, with a piece of paper taped to the front: “1976-2007”.

Brett and I went to PNCA together, studied art history together. Though a painting major, he enjoyed taking photographs, and would show me what he’d been up to now and then, asking me for feedback. He was, like me, lanky, always smiling, friendly and warm. When I’d go in to Art Media, he’d make me feel extra welcome. Shannon and I went to an art opening of his work, on Mississippi. I was always happy to run into him, and doing so never failed to brighten my day. Even the memory of him brings a smile to my face.

Grief is a difficult place to be writing from. Brett was a sweet guy, and his death is tragic on so many levels. His loss to his friends and family, and to his community, is real and deeply felt. Though young (31), he had touched many lives with his cheer and kindness, friendship and artwork and love for bike racing. He will be terribly missed by those closest to him, but even those graced with only the briefest exchange with him–in the Bike Gallery, or at an art gallery–must know their loss. The world will be poorer without him.

So it is with great sadness that I write this memorial, and wish Brett’s family my condolences. Know that his short time here was not wasted, and that his friendship was a blessing to many.

A memorial Ghost Bike was set up at the intersection of N Interstate and Greeley,
where Brett was crushed by a garbage truck October 22, 2007.
He was well-loved, as evidenced by the artwork, flowers, and biking gear left in his honor.

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