More than 300 gather at Mass for crash victim
Daily Sentinel, The (Grand Junction, CO)
Friday, March 30, 2007
Author: GARY HARMON The Daily Sentinel
WESTMINSTER - Jennifer Kois made a vow during her first year at Brighton High School to be a better person.
"And she stood by it," said Natalie Lanning, a friend she met that year.
Lanning was a pallbearer Thursday at Kois' funeral at St. Mark's Catholic Church, where more than 300 mourners gathered, many wearing purple ribbons, purple ties and purple headbands.
Purple was Kois' favorite color, one of several constants in her life, said her father, Peter VonFeldt.
Kois loved purple and her flip-flops, which she would wear even on snowy days like the one outside the sanctuary Thursday. She loved Las Vegas and, VonFeldt said, she had found the "love of her life" in Jake Brock, a fellow student at Mesa State College.
Kois and Brock, both 19, died March 22 on Interstate 70 in Grand Junction when their car was struck from behind by a driver fleeing police at speeds as high as 120 mph.
Brock's funeral on Tuesday filled the Eagle Valley High School gymnasium.
"I can see by all your friends here that you were very much loved," VonFeldt said, looking over the casket at the crowd.
Flanked by Jennifer's sister, Jamie, and his brother, John, VonFeldt made a vow of his own.
Jennifer's family will work with the Brock family to reform Colorado's laws affecting drunken drivers and work for different approaches to high-speed chases.
The man arrested in connection with the fatal accident, Patrick Strawmatt, 42, remains in the Mesa County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond and facing first-degree murder charges, as well as charges of drunken driving and vehicular homicide.
"I will stand up, and I will make sure nobody will do this again," VonFeldt said, urging his daughter's friends to never drink and drive.
"She would still be alive if they would just listen," he said.
Brock's family attended Kois' funeral, just as her family attended his.
Jake Brock and Jennifer had known each other only a few months, VonFeldt said, but "by the gleam in her eye and the smile on her face, she knew it was meant to be.
"She died very happy with the love of her life."
Kois never liked being alone, said Bryce McCleskey, one of several boys who wore purple in her honor.
Kois recently drove home alone after dropping off Jake with his family in Eagle, McCleskey remembered, and later complained that she disliked the drive because she had to drive alone.
"She hated being alone," he said. "She loved being around people."
Shy at first, Kois loved her friends, Lanning said, and decided to attend Mesa State, where she was pursuing a nursing degree, because another friend was also there. Kois hoped to become a child psychologist.
Kois had red hair, but she had plenty of "blonde moments," Lanning said. Kois once observed, for instance, that the earth was flat because it didn't look round from the air, Lanning said.
Once, in Las Vegas, the family was casting about for a place to have breakfast and asked her what she thought of the Pancake House, VonFeldt said.
"Well," she said, "What do they have there?"
VonFeldt recalled Kois' MySpace page and a poem she wrote there, describing herself as extremely spontaneous and always smiling.
"I love life," she wrote. "I love to have fun, I love hanging out with my friends, and I love, love, love my family."
Kois' freshman vow stuck, her father said.
She was "pretty much the best person that her friends knew," he said, looking up through the church skylight and recalling that her family would love her "FAD, forever and a day, Sweetheart, forever and a day."
Gary Harmon can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.