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In loving memory

Jessica Fingers
Photo by Richard A. Ross,

By Richard A Ross
April 23, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — Spring signifies the revival and affirmation of life. As Robert Frost noted in his poem, The Onset, “Winter has never tried/The earth but it has failed.” Even the harshest of winters like the one we just endured cannot stop the resurgence of spring’s colorful splendor. Every year no matter how long or unshakeable the winter may seem, nature’s remarkable palette transforms the bleakness that preceded it.

Similarly, the beauty and resonance of a remarkable life cannot be obviated, not even by an untimely passing. To the legions of people who knew, admired and adored Jessica Fingers, her spirit shines on as an “Eternal Light,” the title of a piece I dedicated to her memory following her death at the age of 21 on March 31, 2013. That elegy along with the picture of her graceful run alongside Hessian Lake at Bear Mountain sits above my desk. She is always with me, especially whenever I am around runners as I remember her grace and strength from the innumerable races in fall, winter and spring in which I photographed her, as well as the stories I wrote in which she was so often featured. That story can be read online at

In her honor, the Monticello School district has renamed the renowned Monticello Games as the Jessica Fingers Memorial Invitational. The “Games of Fame,” which I have dubbed the great track and field meet, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. But henceforth the games will bear her name. Jessica went on to prestigious Columbia University, but she will always be remembered for her remarkable career at Monticello. A plaque in her honor will be attached to a fence adjacent to the track, the site of so many of her sterling moments. A remarkable athlete to be sure, Jessica was so much more. As noted in the aforementioned elegy, the 2009 Monticello graduate was a “Mayor’s Cup winner, runner extraordinaire, champion, teammate, leader, role model, brilliant student, possessor of a captivating smile and aura, daughter, sister and to countless legions of us, an enduring friend.” The shock of her death at such a tender age was a huge blow to those of us who knew and loved her.