Jessica McClenahan, a Park View High School senior with a heart condition, died unexpectedly Sunday.
Her best friend, Stephanie Parsons, said she wanted people to remember “Jessi” as someone who refused to let her ailment hold her back. “She showed everybody,” Parsons said. “She never quit.”
George Barton, a teacher who has the same heart condition and a pacemaker, said he was amazed that McClenahan missed very few school days. There were no outer signs of her circumstances. She was college bound, taking Advanced Placement classes and writing articles for “The Patriot” newspaper. Barton taught her English and journalism last year and Newpaper Journalism I this year. “I got to know her quite well,” he said. “She was such a good writer, and she was really smart, and I wanted her to be on the [newspaper] staff.”
MCCLENAHAN, 17, of Sterling, took his advice, and wrote for the paper during her junior and senior years. Her specialty was “person on the street interviews.”
He recalled how he and his student used to tease back and forth. “My only point is that I understood. I would let her know I would let her use my pacemaker if she ever needed one,” he said.
Her death came as a shock. “Neither one of us looked sick,” he said.
McClenahan’s family notified him Sunday morning. “They knew Jess and I were real close,” he said.
“I encouraged her to go into a career in journalism. She was attractive, so she could have gone into broadcast journalism, public relations or advertising.”
Parsons said McClenahan had decided to go to Northern Virginia Community College and then transfer to Christopher Newport. She wanted to write books.
Barton said the newspaper staff will pay tribute to her in the February issue of “The Patriot,” and plans for a scholarship or another type of memorial already are being considered. “A lot of people have stopped by my classroom and asked about it today,” he said Monday. “We need to see what the family wants.”
He said he will always remember McClenahan as a Superstar. “I have a few students I call my Superstars, and she was one of them, with a capital ‘S.’ She was a really good kid.”
MCCLENHAN ALSO served as home-room representative in ninth grade and as a cheerleader for the Lower Loudoun Football League Broncos. She loved her dog Bear, and spending summer vacations at Nags Head Beach with her family and Parsons. A country music fan, her favorite artist was Tim McGraw.
Arlene Zier said she will miss the talks she and McClenahan had between classes. Zier said she will remember her classmate as someone who always took care of people. “She would help you in a second,” Zier said. “She was the most genuinely sweet person I have ever met in my life.”
Malorie Wines said she will remember McClenahan as a “fun-loving person” who basically found the good in everything.”
Parsons said she will miss going out with her best friend. “Jessi was my little party girl,” she said.
Park View High School Principal Anne Brooks said she and McClenahan talked last year about setting goals and getting the most out of high school. “She realized academic rigor would get her ready for college,” Brooks said. “We were real pleased with what she was doing this year.”
SHE IS SURVIVED by her father Kevin McClenahan of Sterling, her mother Helena McClenahan of Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., and many relatives.
The Hall Funeral Home on 140 S. Nursery Ave., in Purcellville, arranged viewing hours from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday and a funeral at 1 p.m. Thursday. Internment was planned after the service at Ebenezer Cemetery in Round Hill.
Memorial contributions may be given to the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 5216 Glen Allen, Virginia 23058-5216.