by Matt Kraines
The first time I met Jeremy was right here at the Barn.
We were both just beginning eighth grade.
We shook hands and exchanged a brief greeting—and my first impression was that he seemed like sort of a shy and quiet person.
Over the next 21 years, I would come to know Jeremy as a fiercely loyal friend, an intrepid and independent intellect, and a stoic warrior.
He was a true lover of life. He was a humble man of God.
But he was not quiet, nor was he shy.
In high school, he was the first person I knew to get a car. Whisking around the streets of Simsbury at dawn, Jeremy would round up four or five guys, including myself, in the mornings before classes. His horn blaring in each driveway, we would all cram into his car so that we could avoid the profound sufferings and tribulations of arriving at school by bus.
Over time, he became the de facto driver for a small, tightknit group of friends—but most particularly for me. I am a hermit by nature. But for whatever reason, Jeremy decided early in our friendship that that simply would not do. From then on, he would appear strolling in front door, often unannounced, with an errand or mission in mind to save me from myself.
Throughout those years, Jeremy and I shared many great adventures together, going to punk rock concerts and computer shows in places like Hartford, Boston, and Rhode Island. Or driving to Canton, or Avon for dollar menu cheeseburgers. Or for no reason at all, with Blink 182 blasting through the stereo system Jeremy wired into the car himself. Pointless adventures, wonderful adventures.
Many of my fondest memories of Jeremy involve heated political and philosophical disputes that would erupt as we barreled down quiet suburban roadways. An outspoken guy, Jeremy loved to verbally spar, and we had many enjoyable arguments. He challenged my thinking in ways that still shape the person I am today.
Jeremy was also the first among our friends to get a job. He selflessly footed the travel bill for many of our excursions, despite a litany of parking tickets, locked-in keys, empty gas tanks, and car crashes. And he never left anyone out of a trip. Countless people accompanied us over the years; Jeremy loved to be surrounded by his friends. And he saw everyone he met as a friend.
One day after high school, when Jeremy was living out in California, I received an AOL instant message from a different friend of mine named Kevin. Kevin had gone out to California to chase his West Coast dream a few months beforehand, but it had already imploded in tremendous fashion.
Things were getting desperate, Kevin said. He was somewhere, he thought, in-between San Diego and Los Angles in an internet café. He was penniless and homeless. His cell phone was smashed, and his shoes were worn through from wandering the streets. California was not what he had expected. He needed help.
I replied with the first four words that came to mind, “I told you so.”
The next words that came to mind were, “you should IM Jeremy.” I gave him Jeremy’s screen name and wished him luck.
Jeremy and Kevin had never been close friends. But we’d all gone to high school together, so they at least knew of each other.
Within a day Jeremy had found my friend Kevin, who quickly became Jeremy’s friend as well. Jeremy fed his new friend and gave him a place to sleep. A few days later, Jeremy paid for a plane flight back to Connecticut for Kevin. Jeremy saved his life.
Kevin couldn’t be here today. But he is happy and healthy, and he still credits Jeremy with saving his life.
When Jeremy came back to Connecticut and started to get bad news about his health, he faced frightening diagnoses with dignity, courage, and hopefulness. Through countless setbacks, he maintained incredible grit and bravery.
He never revealed any fear and he steadfastly went about the business of life—maintaining friendships and taking college classes in pursuit of law degree under the most difficult of circumstances. He displayed the heart of a warrior in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
Jeremy Rankin was my Great Friend and a Great Man.
It was an honor and privilege to know him well in this life. And I will miss him dearly.
But he was certainly not quiet or shy.
So much for first impressions, eh?