Jack Windeler will be remembered as a thoughtful and kind individual who lived courageously.
Windeler, ArtSci ’13, died in his Leonard Hall residence room on March 26. He committed suicide.
A memorial service was held in Toronto yesterday.
His mother, Sandra Hanington, spoke at the service, describing Windeler as a quiet family man with a dry sense of humour.
“We’ve spent hours in the last few days going over our photos of him, and it’s remarkable that there are so few of him alone,” she said. “For so much of his life, he was surrounded with family and friends and laughter and love.”
Hanington said Windeler loved the water.
“When he was still teensy-tiny, Papa would take him for a row in the dory every morning, Jack in his windbreaker and life jacket, Papa with his coffee, and they’d sing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat,’” she said during the memorial. “Later it became swimming non-stop and diving from Jerry’s boat.”
Hanington told memorial attendees that Windeler once got lost on a week-long canoe trip.
“We got the call from his beloved Camp Ahmek, telling us that everything was fine now that they had actually found Jack after he had spent the night lost in the bush,” she said.
Windeler rowed with Bishop Ridley College in St. Catharines, his high school.
Steve Clarke was Windeler’s chemistry teacher at Ridley.
“Jack wasn’t your typical wisecracking teenager; he was very intellectual and thoughtful,” Clarke said. “I always thought he was smart enough to be someone really special when he grew up.”
Clarke said Windeler was well-liked at his boarding school.
“Though he was a shy kid, it was amazing how many people he knew,” he said.
Jake Armstrong, Sci ’13, said he’s known Windeler since they were in elementary school.
“We were very close back when we were little,” he said, adding that once Windeler invited him on a canoe trip with Windeler’s family.
“He was always very generous, that was something that stuck out to me,” he said. “He was kind and he was a good listener.”
Hanington said the family has been trying to make meaning of his death.
“Jack was … always his own person, making his own decisions and, while we can’t understand this one, we can try to bridge that gap with the warmth of our memories and our love for him and, as Jack asked, use it as an opportunity to do some good,” she said.
Eric Windeler said his son Jack left a note asking his parents’ attention be directed to helping others.
“To honour that wish, we will be focused on programs that help teach people to watch out for their friends, their family, their co-workers, their classmates and their dorm-mates,” he said. “We each need to learn to better identify the possible ‘Jacks.’ People who need, but can’t ask for help, but, if given some at the right time, will be okay again and won’t be lost.”
—With files from Katherine Fernandez-Blance