Images of love and thanks surround the gymnasium at St. Johnsbury Academy Friday. They are for Melissa Jenkins, her family and friends.
"A very loving, open, kind and beloved teacher," said Thomas Lovett, the headmaster at St. Johnsbury Academy.
Hundreds gathered there at a memorial service to comfort each other and remember Jenkins, who was murdered earlier this week.
For the family, this was a time to put aside the details of her sudden and tragic death and remember her contributions to this community and this small state.
"As a teacher and coach, Melissa touched the lives of many students. She exemplified teaching at its best, balancing a dedicated work ethic and enjoyment for all life has to offer," said Eric Berry, a cousin of Melissa Jenkins.
The 33-year-old was a teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy, helping young men and women with their physics in the science department. Jenkins was still learning too at the time of her death, she was about to complete her master's at St. Michael's College.
"That's the way I'll always remember her. She always would reach out to those who were in need and especially struggling students," Lovett said.
She also taught kids how to pass and dribble in the gym as the freshmen basketball coach.
Her energy and outgoing personality also took her to work extra jobs. As a teenager she began waiting tables at area restaurants. That continued right up to her death. It was a job that fit her personality perfectly-- often dressed with a splash of pink, her favorite color-- and helping. And surrounded by people she loved.
This community is doing its best to comfort her family and friends, trying to understand why this happened to such a special person.
While people mourn her death and celebrate her life, many are also focused on helping Jenkins' young son Ty; just 2 years old-- the love of her life.
"Ty was on campus with Melissa all the time. He was the light of her life. And every one of us that had the opportunity to eat a meal in the dining hall with them or to spend some time here watching a game with them with them in the after-hours of the school day, could see how much the little guy meant to her and... and full support from our community to rally behind what his needs might be as he progresses through his life," said Beth Choiniere, a co-worker of Melissa Jenkins.
So much sorrow and sadness as life carries on, but so many determined to never forget Melissa Jenkins.
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