- Front Porch
MERIDEN — It has been a difficult two years since the death of his son Jeremy, but Pat Jennings finds comfort in the gifts he left for so many.
“He was always willing to help you out in a time of need,” Jennings said. “In a way, everyone he met was a friend if they wanted to be.”
Jeremy Jennings died unexpectedly in his home at the age of 35. As a registered organ and tissue donor, his father learned he has helped 43 people in 13 different states, including a newborn baby, a teenager and an elderly man.
“Jeremy really never said anything to me about being an organ donor other than that he was registered,” Pat Jennings said. “We decided to donate his organs because that was his wish. To me there is no greater loss than your child, but knowing he has helped so many people in so many states, kind of keeps him alive in my mind.”
Like all holidays, Father’s Day is difficult for Jennings. He gets some comfort from the thank you letters and pictures he receives from the families of organ recipients, especially the parents of the infant his son’s tissue helped save.
One of his son’s favorite spots was Hubbard Park, where he would walk his lizard on a leash.
Jeremy Jennings was born to Pat Jennings and Roseann Stillson on Oct. 11, 1976 and lived on Linsley Street in Meriden. He graduated from H.C. Wilcox Regional Technical High School in 1994 and was employed by Rolled Alloys in Windsor. He served with the Army National Guard. He bought a home in the city and married Jessica Bissonette, who he left behind along with a stepson and two sisters.
“As Jeremy got older they spent more time together,” Roseann Stillson said about her son and his father. “He loved his dad very much, they went deep sea fishing together and his dad taught him how to lay down a ceramic tile floor and install new cabinets.”
She recalled Jeremy as an affectionate child who didn’t like school but did well. Pat Jennings recalls a young man who was the life of the party and could light up the room when he entered.
LifeChoice Donor Services Inc. is the federally-designated nonprofit procurement organization for six counties in Connecticut and three counties in Western Massachusetts. It serves 23 acute-care hospitals for organ and tissue donation and two organ transplant hospitals, Hartford Hospital, and Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.
It’s not unusual for organ and tissue donors to help as many people as Jeremy Jennings, said Caitlyn Bernabucci, public education and community relations specialist for LifeChoice.
“Sometimes people can help as many as 50 people,” Bernabucci said. “Many families have told us donation is something positive that gives them hope.”
Bernabucci said there is a shortage of donors.
“Eighteen people die every day waiting for transplants, she said. “Only 42 percent of the over age 18 population is registered to donate in Connecticut.”
Pat Jennings is planning a memorial for family and friends on Sunday at the Hubbard Park Bandshell to remember Jeremy and give thanks to the people he has helped save.
“Jeremy would think about the fact that he has helped so many people and as my daughter put it, he would get a kick out of being part of so many individuals,” Pat Jennings said.
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