Sam Norton

Student Life Editor


“I can see him sitting there.” His professor could picture his tall thin frame adorned with bright colors of clothing, complete with a goofy smile etched across the contours of his face. “The hood was frequently up, even in class,” PeggyRae Johnson said, professor of theatre and dance.

Now this image of Jake Messersmith has become a memory, one that reminds his family, friends, and professors of the spark he possessed throughout his life. The Keene State College senior died on Feb. 21, 2012.

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Memories have the ability to fade and disappear into the passing of time. They become locked in the depths of the mind, waiting to be released for moments of remembrance, but memories of Jake are ones that have no intention of fading.

Freshman year was when Liz Francese first met Jake. He had been one of the first friends she made living in Randall Hall.

Late one night, during the beginning of the fall semester, Jake had arrived back to his dorm with a meatball sandwich he had just purchased from Cumberland Farms. “He put his arm around me and he was talking really close to my face and his arm has the meatball sub in his hand and it’s wrapped around me. I’m looking back at the meatball and it’s about to drip on my shirt. He was so unaware and so oblivious,” Francese said.

This is one of Francese’s fondest memories of Jake, one that reminds her of who Jake was “energetic and bouncing,” she said.

At a young age, Jake demonstrated his passion for theatre and dance. Growing up, Jake and his older sister, Rachel Messersmith, would dream up a world-a world that allowed them to be whoever they wanted to be, and do whatever they wanted to do.

Together they created a story, one that was their own. “We used to play dress up when we were little and perform. We would play house and make up our own stories constantly,” Rachel, a KSC senior, said. Fast forward to Jake’s college days– the days where he performed on stage in “Turning the Tide,” “Threepenny Opera,” and in the “No Zebras, No Excuses” program.

He lived out his childhood dream- performing stories, ones that allowed him to be whoever he wanted to be and do whatever he wanted to do.

Jake, who was a theatre arts major, would have graduated this year. Johnson first met Jake during his freshman year. He had been in her classes three different times.

“Teachers can have as many as a hundred students a semester. So when you say that one will be remembered that in itself will be pretty special,” Johnson said.

“He wasn’t just an acquaintance for most; he was really a dear friend and a member of our theatre family,” Johnson said.

Jake had dreams of moving to Boston and becoming involved with the music and play scene that the city had to offer, Rachel said.

But now, those dreams have become another memory of Jake and his love of theatre. However, these memories of Jake on stage are ones that will remind his friends and family of who he was.

“Seeing Jake on stage was amazing. He always had this spark. You could just see that he was completely comfortable on stage and that was where he was home. It was where it let him be totally completely loose and be himself,” Rachel said. Jake was goofy by nature, always cracking the jokes, his older sister said.

“He would make goofy faces constantly, so even if you were having a bad day, you’d be smiling and laughing,” she said.

His hugs, his smile, and his laugh are what Rachel said she misses most about her younger brother; but, Jake is alive in her memories.

Last summer at midnight, in a spur of the moment decision, Jake and Rachel hopped in a car and went for a ride. “We took a joy ride because we were just bored,” she said. “We got to this cornfield and got out of the car and just looked at the stars.” As a close-knit family, the siblings would do everything together.

“We would always go for drives and listen to music. He listened to everything, he was a big Blink 182 fan, so we’d always rock out to that,” Rachel said. Music was one element that Jake always made sure to incorporate into his life.

He played the saxophone and guitar, and even taught his youngest sister how to play the piano. “Now, I look at her and I see him playing,” Rachel said.

The image of Jake- a happy, energetic, and vibrant Jake- is one that occupies friends’ and families’ thoughts and memories of him on a daily basis. “I’ve seen him all over campus ever since losing him; whenever I see a tall, thin, young person with brightly colored clothes,” Johnson said.

His ability to crack a smile on anyone’s face is one that has not disappeared with his passing. Remembrances of Jake’s demeanor are ones that keep his memory alive, and create smiles on anyone’s face that knew him. “He was not shy about clowning whether it was through a goofy face, hat, or sunglasses; he found a way to make other people smile,” Johnson said.

After high school graduation, Jake’s family threw a party for him and his cousin Josh. “We were all getting ready to cut the cake and my cousin had just said, ‘Oh if anyone gets cake in my face I’m going to be so mad!’ Jake didn’t hear him say that. So I was like, ‘Jake, you should definitely throw cake at Josh’s face.’ It started this huge cake war. It was hilarious,” Rachel said. This is how Rachel said she wants her brother to be remembered—outgoing, friendly, and loving life.

“I understand that he couldn’t live without his sparkle, and I wouldn’t want him to, because that’s whom I know and love and I’ll miss him everyday. But I wouldn’t want him to be unhappy as hard as that is,” Rachel said. The image of Jake is one that is close by, kept inside the heart and memories of the loved ones he left behind, Rachel said.

“He was a gift in our lives.”


Sam Norton can be contacted at








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