Jill McDermott was a dedicated teacher and Victor resident

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By Melody Burri, staff writer
Messenger Post
Posted Aug 20, 2010 @ 02:16 PM
Victor, N.Y.

Students, teachers, parents and staff at Fairport’s Dudley Elementary School are preparing to head back to their classrooms in September. But when they return, one irreplaceable presence will be missing.

Just 38 years old, Ms. McDermott was well known by all for her love of teaching, her dedication to her students, and her unique and creative spirit.

Jill McDermott — their beloved teacher, friend and colleague — lost her battle with cancer on July 23.
 Just 38 years old, Ms. McDermott was well known by all for her love of teaching, her dedication to her students, and her unique and creative spirit. 
The impact she had on the lives of her students, their families and her fellow teachers was demonstrated in a tangible way to her family.

“We received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cards,” said Jill’s husband, Jon. “The day after her Mass most of the family was together and we spent the whole night just passing around the cards so everybody could read them.”

“And when we were at the funeral home,” Jon remembered, “these 16 year-old kids would come in and say, ‘Mrs. McDermott was my teacher when I was in first grade.’”

Jon’s amazement is still fresh.

“It’s just unbelievable that she touched their lives enough, that many years ago, that they would think of coming to see her,” he said.

Flash back 15 years and Jon remembers the first time he met his future bride, as clearly as if it happened just yesterday.

“It was 1995. I was ‘leading the single life’ when I met Jill. I was on ‘that path,’” he recalled. “I actually credit her with saving my life. She just had a way about her. When I first saw her, she was beautiful, she was sweet, she was everything anybody could ever want.”

Although Jon’s mind was made up, Jill’s heart wasn’t as quickly won.

“I had to chase her down,” he said. “She even stood me up on our second date and I had to go knock on her door.”

Eventually, in August of 2000 the couple were married, and for the next 10 years they were inseparable.

“It was devotion on both sides,” said Jon. “We never went anywhere without each other. And that was out of choice. She was my best friend. If she needed something, a school project done, I’d go out, help her collect the supplies and helped her do it. If there was something she needed, I’d be there to help her. If there was something I needed, she’d be there to help me.”

Ms. McDermott enjoyed watching TV. “Dog the Bounty Hunter” was a favorite, as well as UFC ultimate fighting. And she graciously put up with Jon’s “stupid shows like F1 racing, NASCAR and Yankees games.”

“She even bought a Boston Red Sox hat,” he said, “because she knew I was a devoted Yankees fan. She said she bought it because ‘she liked the color.’”

The couple loved to go for bike rides down the canal on their mountain bikes. They traveled to Hawaii, the Bahamas, Florida, Sun Valley and Portland. But most of all, Jill loved to shop for purses, shoes and hats.

Their age difference sparked amusing comments every now and again. Jon laughed as he remembered a few instances of mistaken identity, especially when doctors came to give Jill an exam or do a test.

“She always looked so young — even when we were in the hospital. People would look at me and then ask her if she wanted ‘her dad’ to step out for a minute,” he said.

Ms. McDermott battled illness for three long years. During that time she endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy, several surgeries and the additional challenges that accompany such a difficult journey. Regardless of the amount of pain she experienced, Jon said, her compassion for others always rose above it. So when people around her had a simple sniffle or headache, her immediate response was one of concern for them.

“This is a girl that was on oxygen 24 hours a day,” said Jon, “and when I got a headache, she was asking me, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ She certainly wasn’t selfish.”

A refreshing period of remission gave some welcome relief, but eventually the cancer came back.

Still, Ms. McDermott was not going to be stopped.

“She was actually in her classroom last month,” her husband remembered, “setting up her bulletin boards for the fall, expecting to go back.” Smiling, he added, “She even stood up from her wheelchair and gave directions so it would be done right.”

It’s not likely that Jill would approve of all the current attention and focus on her life and accomplishments, Jon said.

“She was very private about things like this,” he said. “She wouldn’t talk about herself. It was never about her, it was always about somebody else.”

Family members are in the process of forming a nonprofit corporation to benefit the children Ms. McDermott loved so much. Deserving Dudley Elementary School first- and second-grade students may be able to receive school supplies, mittens, clothing, assistance with field trips, and whatever is needed.

“She was honorable, caring, giving — and stubborn,” said Jon with a smile.

“She treated everyone with respect, and my mission is to help the kids she loved to help,” he added.

“There was nothing bad about her. I know everybody says that, but in this case it’s true.”

Thank you for the bracelet

Hi Jon,
We never met but my son Austin Sergeant had the priviledge of having Jill for 1st grade for the 2007/2008 school year. The night my husband and I walk out of meet the teacher night, we were sooooo happy to meet Jill and felt really good that Austin was going to have a great year with her! AND HE DID!!! Our middle son went in to 1st grade this year and received a bracelet in memory of Jill. Because he didn't really know her, he gave his bracelet to Austin. And Austin wears it with pride.

Please know that Jill made an ever lasting impression on the Sergeant Family in Fairport and she will forever be in our hearts!

PS - Sue Fiandach is my cousin, so that may ring a bell on the name.......

Take care,
Dani Sergeant

Jon, our son, Isaiah

Jon, our son, Isaiah Mongeon, came home today with a braclet that is very special to him, and now very special to us. We didn't know Jill, but she seemed like an amazing woman, and it was our loss to not have known her, but now we have a reminder of what an important part she played in so many peoples lives. We've read the story and also the comments and we're deeply touched, for both her strength and for yours, Thank you for sharing all of this with us. Our families thoughts and condolences are with you, your family and friends, who loved her so dearly
Thank You,
Rob and Amy Nugent and family

Christyn Hirschler August 26 at 4:24pm

I miss Jill. I didn't see her often after she had to leave school in the fall, but we emailed and texted very regularly. I really miss her..... She had agreed (before she went) to let me stop by after you returned from Chicago. I have thought about if I had that 5 minutes, what would I say. I think I would have wanted to tell her face to face that I was so thankful that our paths crossed and we became friends, that she left a lasting imprint on my heart through her courage, strength, beauty and hope...then I would have also told her she was the most stubborn (and at times frustrating) friend I have ever had, but that is what made her such a great fighter against her illness. And I would have said how proud I was to have a friend like her.

Thoughts from Sue N.

I never sent a card, didn't know what to write in it. The funeral mass was beautiful, the service moving, the people that attended that worked with her at Dudley, was a great turnout. I worked with Jill for two years, pushing into the classroom as a aide and was really looking forward to working with her again in the future, I knew how hard of a fighter she was and really believed if any one could do it, she could, and when we last talked in June, I felt very optimistic that God would perform a miracle.
Instead we lost her on that day and have to have just memories of her to keep us going, she wanted me to come and visit this summer because as you said she always had a heart of gold. She wanted us to get together to vent because my husband lost his job in May due to a disability with his back,and she said we could figure it out together, money wasn't everything and I was a strong person so I would be able to handle it. I was scared about what the future would hold for me and vented to her about it... now months later I recall her kind words and thoughts, how she wanted me back in her classroom to help out because you khow she would still be a little weak and woud need a extra set of hands. Now that we are heading back to school I do believe that its going to be harder to accept the fact that God has taken her back home, but I have to believe she is in a better place with no more suffering, no more pain, and trying to figure out what Angels do for Halloween, just want you to know that I keep you and the family in my prayers and hope that God is helping you with the healing process. I will miss her terribly and have that beautiful picture of her from the Mass on my dresser mirror. Take care, Sue N.

Jill was an amazing person

Jill was an amazing person and friend. The Victor Post wrote a great article! Thank you Jon for making sure Jill is always remembered.
I loved it!

Some comments from Facebook

Demi Ciappara I don't know what to say, Jill sounds like an incredible person who has touched so many peoples lives! xx
Saturday at 10:18pm
Johanna Montesano that was beautiful and perfect.
Saturday at 10:23pm
Geri Buchholz Sehnert What a great article. Jon, you did a beautiful job of expressing how you and how others felt about Jill.
Saturday at 10:34pm
Christyn Hirschler Beautiful article
Yesterday at 6:34am
Kathy Parlato Mumpton this is a very nice tribute to Jill........
18 hours ago
Kelley Edwards Woodwick That is an amazing article. We should all aspire to be so loved and make such an impact.
14 hours ago