Eulogy for Jennifer Pavelich Clinton
by Sheldon F. Kurtz
June 17, 2010
When Jenny Clinton died last Monday, a light was prematurely extinguished. a light that for 35 short years brightened our lives in so many ways. I was privileged to have that light in my life almost from the moment Jenny was born and, while each of us knew Jenny in our own but in different ways, all of us feel the pain of this immeasurable loss.
Jenny Clinton was born on November 2, 1974 and for a brief time after her birth, having been born second, she was simply known in the nursery as Twin B. For Jenny, this began a tradition that lasted throughout her life. She never made or was even rumored to have made an early appearance.
From the get-go, Jenny and her beloved sister Erica were inseparable. Fittingly, as the “big sister,” Erica was always there –in the early years with a bump or a knock down, but later always with an assist, a helping hand, and unconditional love.
Pat and Bob, of course, had their hands full with the twins, who soon after their births became triplets when their brother Seth came into their home.
For the Kurtz family, the triplets were our other children, particularly in the pre-junior high school days when we would see them almost every day. They were always a welcome addition to our household. None of the Clintons or the Kurtzes will ever forget turtle races in Minnesota or Fourth of July parades in downtown Iowa City where the five kids would be dressed in outlandishly created costumes. And, no holiday was complete unless we were all together. With us, as with others, Jenny assumed the role of the crowd pleaser with her incredible smile and gaiety.
After Lucas elementary, came Southeast Junior High and then City High. Because Jenny was a typical teenager, this is when she began to come into her own and all the parents in this room know what I mean by that. Throughout these years, Jenny always wanted to take control and she was always competitive. She loved creating clubs although she insisted she be both the president and the treasurer. She always had a keen sense of how she wanted things done and rarely brooked dissent.
She was the midget on the basketball team but played the game like she was a champion. This need to compete and be successful was exhibited in her early life when she and Erica sat in those bouncing seats suspended from the wall. Jenny was always the faster bouncer.
After graduating from City high, Jenny went off to Cornell College in Mt. Vernon where she met Joe. From their first encounter, Joe showered upon Jenny his unfailing affection and devotion–year after year. No man could have provided more support for his wife (and I might add better food) than Joe, and we, who loved Jenny, love him for all he did for her. And, then there was Noah, their special blessing, who daily brings joy and pleasure to the lives of Grandma Pats, both the one on Pinecrest and the one up on the hill. Noah, in his own way, early recognized the roles of his parents in his life. As he once said, “mommy makes the rules, daddy makes the dinner.” More recently in commenting on Jenny’s rule making he told Grandma Pat on Pinecrest: “Sometimes mom can be a pain in the butt.” He was right.
After college, more education followed, but birth order had to be respected. So, first Twin A, Erica went to law school with Twin B, Jenny, close behind. Here, I must say they did diverge, for Erica became the social activist committed to protecting the rights of the defendant in the criminal justice system while Jenny became the tough on crime hardliner. If I didn’t know better I’d swear she was a ghost writer for Law and Order. And, she loved her job with the Linn County County Attorney’s office. [Added at the service: And, I notice all of the peace officers in the room this evening. I remember Jenny telling me how excited she was to ride around in a police car chasing criminals. With the exception of something I’ll mention shortly it was one of her most memorable life experiences.] I still remember her excitement when she told me about the first case she tried. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a minor misdemeanor rather than a Class A felony. But, in her mind, they were the same. Going after the bad guys, making them pay and always watching out for the victims. She was so proud of her lawyering accomplishments and we were all so very proud of her.
Now Jenny loved to talk and debate and had opinions about everything. And she really didn’t care if you agreed with those opinions. She believed that if you were arrested you probably were guilty. She had no sense of geography and had a hard time placing states and countries in their proper places on the map. Yet, she was clear that Iowa City was the center of the universe and that everyone she loved should live here.
As a teenager Jenny developed a crush on Michael J. Fox and when she heard he was a republican she thought should must become one too. That one really hurt me.
And, while not wild about flowers, she loved animals, particularly dolphins. One of the great experiences of her life was going to dolphin camp in Florida and swimming with and learning about dolphins. She hated all mistreatment of animals. Perhaps it was her love of animals that caused her to become a vegetarian which is ironic given that throughout her life she hated eating vegetables.
Those of us who knew and loved Jenny also know that her light could dim. But out of respect for her own openness in talking about her mental illness, I am going to say a very painful and sensitive word: Suicide. We can never truly know and may never fully understand what led Jenny to take her life, but we know that if she could, she would have erased from society the stigma that exists around mental health issues, so that others could speak more freely about their burdens. And to those of you looking for a way to honor Jenny, I encourage you to make a contribution in her honor to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I know she would have wanted this.
For Pat and Bob, I cannot imagine the pain and sorrow you feel. You gave her life, you gave her love, and you gave her support. The best of Jenny comes from you. And Joe, I know how much Jenny appreciated all of the love and support you gave her over so many years.
For Jenny, the light will never dim again, for those of us she has left behind, it is very dim indeed. But sadness is always temporary and it will pass. And, when it does, what will be left in our minds and hearts will be the memories of Jenny’s light that could fill a room with her joy and exuberance.
Jenny, may you now rest in peace, and may you light up the skies with your brightness as you lightened up our lives here on earth.