Editor’s note: The following are portions of the eulogy made by Fitzhugh Park Elementary School teacher Nick Little this week in remembrance of Jack Bobbett at the 11-year-old Oswego boy’s memorial service. The remarks appear here with the permission of Mr. Little and the Bobbett family.
As we come together to remember and honor the life of Jack, I am sure the ultimate question or rather, statement that is being proclaimed is: Why? And I believe an even harder part is knowing deep down that the answer we want so desperately will never be given.
As one of Jack’s teachers, I have prided myself in being able to provide students with social, emotional, and academic skills to prepare them for the real world. And here we are, in the real world, facing a situation that nobody is prepared for.
One of my most favorite and now-relevelent songs by MercyMe has lyrics that say, “It´s easy to say ‘all is well with my soul’ when there is nothing to bring you down. But what will you say when you are held to the flame like you are right now?” Can we say that “all is well with our souls” right now? No. Not yet. But one way to keep the faith alive is through sharing of memories and being there for each other.
Look around. This is how we remember Jack. We continue his legacy by being there as a community, a family, as one team. So in helping everyone, including myself, pursue this long and painful process of accepting and processing that which we cannot accept, I want to share some of my fondest memories of Jack that truly played a part in the person I am today. I thought it appropriate to share nine memories for our #9.
Jack’s smile and grin: Three years ago, I missed the first three and half months of teaching due to an injury. I remember the very first day I was given the go to return back to work. I walked in my classroom door and the first kiddo I saw was Jack and the look on his face of being completely enamored to see me gave me such a boost. I was a rockstar that day. From that day forward I knew that Jack was my number one fan. You truly cannot put a word in to describe the feeling of having a student who truly loved everything about you and loved everything you did- regardless of how weird I was sometimes. A month into me returning I was asked by Jack to come to his hockey game at SUNY Oswego. Even though I had the hardest of times walking, I wanted to be there. When Jack saw me in the bleachers, that same smile of admiration and love was there. He was so proud to be my student and I, his teacher. It was an immediate bond that cannot be broken nor truly described.
His confidence and listening skills: Jack spearheaded the morning announcements program at our school and loved every moment on the big screen. Team Fitzhugh Park had monthly interviews where the kids would interview an organization and teach the school for one week about it through a series called “TEAM FPS Exclusives.” This was also the time when I provided feedback to reporters to grow in their skills. I would show Jack his recordings and give him positive and constructive feedback. Jack would smile, look directly in my eyes, overly agree, provide his own feedback, and then... not apply any of those things. I knew during every feedback session that Jack had his own style and was gonna stick to them.
His love of being in the moment: For the first time in my teaching career I initiated a seating chart arrangement that changed over eight times throughout that year ...and Jack was the motivator for making those decisions. He loved sharing, talking, and helping everyone, even if it meant during my math lessons. Every kid loved talking to Jack, especially the girls in the class. Which is also why I had to start a “No Dating” policy as well. Even better is the fact that I moved Jack so many times in class that I ended up putting him next to my desk. But, I had to make an ultra special spot for Jack yet again because I found I too was talking to Jack when I shouldn’t be.
His ability to sell anything: Jack headed off the school store last year and part of the job was to make commercials for the morning announcements. He was always the first one to put on these Elton John-style heart glasses and heart headbands and not only make commercials but march right into the classrooms to remind the students about the Valentine’s Day Sale. That year we made over $1,300 in sales.
His grit: Jack craved a challenge. Be it an athletic, social, or an academic one he craved it. Jack had an ability to always accept feedback and push his abilities; always aiming for greatness. Jack got so good at challenging himself that he started seeing the benefits of challenging others- including myself. I remember a time when Jack was upset with me for giving a couple of kids some candy and he thought it was unfair. I pulled him to the hallway to talk it out and he straight up said it wasn’t fair. I then went with the, “what is fair and what is equal are not the same thing” explanation and he gave me the same look he gave me when I gave him feedback for morning announcements: he shook his head, nodded a lot, said “ok, I get it”, and then walked back into class. I always left those conversations with a grin knowing that he truly did not care about the gum or any other situation. He wanted a one to one conversation; he just wanted to talk to me and challenge me for the sake of challenging me.
His amazing parents: A teacher can always see when a child is provided with consistent, effective, loving, and devoted parents and that could not have happened if it was not for parents like Ryan and Maureen.
His sweet and supportive sister, Delaney: Delaney followed suit in Jack’s footsteps by being in the morning announcements program last year while she as at Fitzhugh. Like Jack, she had the skills and personality to share good news to all who wanted to listen.
The connection I had with Jack truly made me view this kid as more than just a student and to truly see my purpose as a teacher. During the first year TEAM FPS did a Relay for Life team at the highschool, Jack and other student council members were asked to stay late at the track and sell things for our team. Jack was the first person there, almost two hours early. During that time, I was so hungry I needed to stop at the nearby McDonalds. I asked Jack if he wanted to go. Not only did you see that smile on his face that just showed how awesome a trip to McDonalds was going to be. He offered to buy me dinner as he was not hungry. Pulling out a wadded $10 bill and donning a prideful face that said “yeah....I got some cash...” When we ordered — I bought myself a burger and him some mcnuggets and that smile would not come off. That is still my favorite memory..
Jack’s grateful heart: At the end of his fourth grade year, Jack wrote me one of the most heartfelt and sincerest letters thanking me for a fun year and for all we did in Student Leadership Council. Words cannot express to you how rare it is to receive such deep words from a 9-year-old child. I will cherish this letter for the rest of my life.
So, here is that pressing question again: Why?
With all the memories still fresh in our hearts and with all the people here supporting each other, could we now possibly change it to: When?
When can you take the time to smile more? When can you take the time to listen more? When can tell a child that “this might be hard for you to do but I will be there every step of the way?” When can you find the time to still laugh even when you have things to get done? When can you make sure you go to a concert or sports game? When can you spend more time with friends and family? When can you put down the phone and talk face to face?
Time, is a thief, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Make sure you all stay together like you are right now so that you have more “when’s” than “why’s”. This will guarantee that Jack’s legacy becomes instilled in all of our hearts; so that our thoughts and actions become a true reflection of our love for Jack. This is how we can eventually end up saying, with hearts open wide, “it is well with my soul.” Let us continue Jack’s legacy together as a family and a community.
Jack: I will always love you. Maureen, Ryan, Delaney, and family: we all love you and will always be there for you.