CARBONDALE—Following the Astroworld music festival that left eight dead and countless people injured, the SIU and Carbondale community gathered to honor the life of third year journalism student Jacob (Jake) E. Jurinek.
The memorial began with words from Jurinek’s girlfriend Emma Braning, who met Jurinek just before coming to SIU in the fall of 2019. She thanked the community for coming out to show their support.
“It means the world to me and his family to see how many lives he touched for only even being in Carbondale for two and a half years,” Braning said.
She remembered Jurinek as an outgoing, loving partner and friend.
“Jacob in the best way possible was an attention whore. He loved putting on a show for everyone and being the center of attention. I know he’s looking at all of us here gathered in his honor and wishing he could be here,” Braning said.
Jurinek always wanted to make those around him happy and smile, she said.
“As hard as it may be, he wouldn’t want us to be sad and standing here crying because of him. He would have wanted us to laugh and become friends,” Braning said.
Braning said her relationship with Jurinek was a special one.
“We have laughed together, cried together. Seen each other at our worst and our best. We told each other everything. He was truly my best friend in the entire world,” she said.
Braning credited Jurinek for introducing her to many of her friends at SIU.
“One thing that I always admired about Jacob was his people skills. He made friends everywhere he went . . . along with that, I never heard him say anything negative about anyone. I guarantee you, if you had smiled or waved in his direction, I had probably heard about it,” Braning said.
While combing through posts following the Astroworld tragedy, Braning found heroic stories about Jurinek and his childhood friend, 21-year-old Franco Patino, who also died in the tragedy.
“One girl said that both Jacob and Franco had told her that they would protect her and her sister. Fortunately for them, both girls came out unharmed. Even in a time when I know his anxiety was probably high and he was scared he still looked out for those around him,” Braning said.
SIU Faculty members that worked closely with Jurinek during his time at SIU remembered Jurinek’s strong and positive energy in the classroom and in his professional work. Jurinek became a member of SIU’s AdLab team under the supervision of Bridget Lescelius, who first met Jurinek in the fall of 2020.
“He had a sense of curiosity and wonder that you don’t see in all students and for me it was like that crossroads when you go from child to adult and he was just starting over that bridge. There was still this childlike wonder in everything he did,” Lescelius said.
Lescelius said Jurinek was bright and had a full future ahead of him.
“In my classes, he would sit right next to me, so he could engage and so he could challenge me because he loved a challenge. He still didn’t have a filter. He said what he thought and the other students loved that,” Lescelius said. “I don’t even know how to describe the truthfulness, just the authentic nature of ‘This is who I am,’ and he really had that voice of who he was."
Lescelius said Jurinek was ready to “kick into gear this semester”. He wanted to be a strong and present part of the AdLab team. The first Monday after the Astroworld tragedy Lescelius walked into class and felt the missing presence of Jurinek.
“I wasn’t expecting to meet so many students that inspired me and he was one of them. I just, I really liked him. I thought about how his dad raised him, kudos to his dad. What a wonderful, wonderful human being he raised,” Lescelius said.
Jan Thompson, director of the SIU School of Journalism, made a statement sending condolences to the family and friends of Jurinek.
“His spirit, humor and commitment to always doing his best will be missed at the School of Journalism,” Thompson said.
Fourth year student Mikaylan Roach, a classmate and working partner of Jurinek said, “Everyone is so heartbroken and in shock about this sudden loss in our community. I will miss his endless jokes and animated storytelling the most.”
Sammie Oxford, a fourth year student at SIU, met Jurinek in her first semester at SIU in the dorms.
“Jacob had such a witty and energetic personality. He was very outspoken and always had something clever to say. His determination and dedication came through in every project he worked on in AdLab and in his classes,” Oxford said.
Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Media, H.D. Motyl, met Jurinek in a University 101 course he taught and remembered Jurinek as “so sweet and lovable” and very talkative and energetic.
“He would come over and come to visit me in my office just to talk. He was talking about nothing, but it didn’t matter cuz he just wanted to talk. I mean for me it really broke up my day and brightened my day,” Motyl said.
He said Jurinek was initially a cinema major but found his true passion in graphic design. After one of their talks in his office, Motyl walked Jurinek down to the AdLab RSO at SIU.
Chancellor Austin Lane recalled the traumatic events that have occurred in the Carbondale community to SIU students throughout the fall semester. Freshman Keeshanna (Shanna) Jackson died as a result of a shooting at a college party in August, followed by the loss of aviation student Joe Ermel, who died fatally in a motorcycle crash. Three students were also shot and injured at parties in October.
“I don’t think you ever fully recover from death, especially with students so young, and who are dying, and in tragic ways. Not only Jacob, we have other students early in the semester like Keeshanna and had some students injured,” Lane said.
Lane recognized that the entire SIU campus continues to grieve the loss of these students. He said he hopes to see the SIU campus unite as a “Saluki nation and support each other.”
“You know, we do hope to move forward but that doesn’t mean that we have to forget what happened. As we’re moving forward, we have to really look out for one another. You got to support one another. We really have to allow ourselves to shed some tears and to think about folks that we don’t have here any longer. It’s been a tough fall semester,” Lane said.
Jurinek also worked for Saluki athletics during the 2019-2020 season in the communication department. Jurinek started working for Saluki athletics in his freshman year at SIU.
Coordinator of Social Media, Licensing and Branding, Michael Black worked with Jurinek in Saluki Athletics.
“He helped our Sports Information Directors in-game with stats and other assigned duties, while also assisting with miscellaneous graphics for athletics. Jacob had an energetic personality and brought a lot of enthusiasm to the office. He was always eager to learn and lend a helping hand,” Black said.
The memorial concluded with Braning reading a statement from Jurinek’s family.
“Jake was beloved by his family and by his seemingly countless number of friends for his contagious enthusiasm, his boundless energy, and his unwavering positive attitude. He was an avid fan of music, an artist, a son, a best friend to many, and a loving and beloved cousin, nephew, and grandson,” the statement read.
Braning continued through tears, saying Jurinek was “deeply committed to his family” and referred to as Big Jake by his cousins for his “larger-than-life”
“Jake will be remembered as the best friend to his father, Ron Jurinek. Jake and Ron were brought closer together than ever by a preceding tragedy, the passing of Jake’s mother, Alison, in 2011,” Braning read. “In the decade since, Jake and Ron were inseparable- attending White Sox and Blackhawks games, sharing their love of professional wrestling, and spending weekends with extended family and friends at Jake’s favorite place, the family cottage in Southwestern Michigan.”
Ron Jurinek asked that the public give the family the time and space to process and heal from the aftermath of Jurineks death.
“We’re comforted by the fact that the hundreds of people Jake touched over the years will carry a piece of his spirit with them,” said Ron Jurinek.
Braning said Jacob was everything she had prayed for in a companion.
“He was brave and honest and true. Always strong in what he believed in and passionate about what he liked,” Braning said.