Family and friends remember student who died in crash

Jessica Brooks was inspiring and loving to people and animals alike. She began caring for farm animals at age 11. At 14, when a farm she had helped with moved, she grieved over the loss of daily contact with the animals.

Jessica later asked for permission to volunteer at Sequim Animal Hospital, where her mentor allowed her to watch during farm visits and emergency calls, inspiring her to continue to the position.

“I will forever be grateful for the veterinarian who opened the world of veterinary medicine to Jes in a very personal way,” said Suzanne Brooks, Jessica’s mother.

Jessica died in a car accident just outside Colfax on Dec. 27, the first of three WSU students to die while driving to or from Pullman snowy conditions over winter break.

“On December 27th, Heaven gained this very beautiful lady,” Suzanne said. “We will miss her, but we know we will see her again. In the meantime, knowing her, she is already enjoying her time with Jesus and all the animals in Heaven while she waits for us.”

Jessica grew up in Port Angeles, Washington, along with five siblings: Shannon, Tim, Becky, Dan and Chris.

She was the second youngest. Suzanne said Jessica was very competitive and determined not only to keep up with her siblings, but also to follow her dreams.

She started her formal veterinary training at Peninsula College when she was 17. She then transferred to Western Washington University before coming to WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She was scheduled to graduate as a doctor of veterinary medicine this coming May.

Jessica supported local humane societies and donated time to Fur Ball and Pups Parading the Palouse walks, which both help local animals. She cared deeply for animals, but Suzanne said her love for her Lord and for people was even greater.

She was active in numerous churches, including Pullman’s Emmanuel Baptist Church (EBC), where she was a youth group leader for three years. Joel Moore, the youth and families associate pastor, said Jessica was an integral part of the church and youth group.

“Jes was faithful and steadfast,” he said. “She wasn’t just a Christian in name. Her faith in Jesus was the most important thing in her life, and she lived like that was true. Jes had been a youth leader at EBC for three years. She loved working with the youth, and she was always ready to help or lend a hand or a sympathetic ear. She was the kind of person who said what she meant and meant what she said. We are all deeply saddened and will miss her very much.”

Suzanne said Jessica’s greatest ministry, however, was her everyday life with her quiet, steady, fun-loving personality, and her genuine love and compassion. Suzanne said this made Jessica special in the hearts of everyone with whom she came into contact.

Suzanne said she and her family have received an outpouring of condolences and memories from staff and students about Jessica that allowed them to capture a glimpse of the impact she had at WSU.

“We are extremely blessed to have 26 years wonderful years with her,” she said.

Fellow vet student and friend Katherine Reardon experienced Jessica’s compassion firsthand.

“I had a serious car accident earlier this year, and she really helped me heal,” Reardon said. “She drove me around when I didn’t feel safe driving, helped me get groceries, helped me get to school — I don’t know what I would have done without her. She even helped take care of my cats. I could always count on her whether I needed advice, help or just a shoulder to cry on.”

In addition to helping Reardon through difficult situations, Jessica also helped and inspired her to work hard at school as the two wrote a senior thesis for vet school.

“It was always my goal to make her proud,” Reardon said. “I had to present my research after her accident, and it was really difficult, but I really wanted to do her justice by giving my best. She never gave less than 100 percent, ever.”

Suzanne said she hopes Jessica’s class is able to fulfill Jessica’s lifelong dream — working and caring for animals.

“There is a hole in our class and in our hearts where Jes was,” Reardon said, “and I don’t know if it will ever be filled. She was a beautiful spirit and a stalwart friend.”

The class is trying to find ways to memorialize Jessica, from an honorary place at graduation to an endowment, but Reardon said it is hard to find something that will do her memory justice.

“I think she made all of us better doctors and better people,” Reardon said, “and I hope that we can carry on her memory in our lives and careers.”