A promising life cut short

Amanda Pollard

A comfortable couch, a big screen plasma television with today’s NASCAR race on, a dog eagerly waiting to supply big, wet kisses, the smell of Burger King and two grandmothers awaiting you with open arms.

It may not sound like everyone’s heaven, but those who knew her best are sure this is where Jamie Austin Gonzales is today.

After a short battle with cancer she passed away on Oct. 14. Gonzales was a student at Sacramento State from 2004 to 2007. She worked for The State Hornet as both an editor and writer for more than five semesters. Gonzales was diagnosed with cancer this past spring and celebrated her 25th birthday in May. Close friends say her spirit was never weakened.

Following her graduation from Sac State, Gonzales began working as a reporter for The Elk Grove Citizen newspaper in January 2008. While there she covered the city politics beat, focusing on the Elk Grove City Council and other city agencies. Gonzales worked for the Citizen until Monday, Oct. 6, just one week before she passed away.

Close friend and co-worker at the Elk Grove Citizen Linda Le Park said even when Gonzales was facing tough times she had a smile on her face and thought of others.

“When she was going through chemo and (was) very sick, my daughter had a throat infection. Jamie would send me messages asking me how my daughter was,” Park said. “Here she was dealing with chemo and cancer, and she took time out to send me a message and check on my daughter.”

During her time at the Hornet, Gonzales met not only friends but people who considered her to be their family.

Friend and former staff editor for the Hornet Josh Staab attended Bella Vista High School, American River College and eventually Sac State with Gonzales.

“In high school she was very much the nerdy girl with the NASCAR shirt on, and it wasn’t until our classes together in junior college that I found out how intelligent and funny she was,” Staab said. “She could make your day a little bit better if you gave her a chance. As cliché as it sounds, you should never judge a book by its cover. She was one of the coolest people I knew.”

Another close friend, Sac State alumna and former Hornet editor Nika Megino remembers her as a strong support system, not only as a friend but professionally as well.

“I had a philosophy and literature class and Jamie was a big fan of mythology and I was having a difficult time. We had these quizzes online and she would offer to sit with me and help me understand it all. That’s the definition of Jamie – she was willing to help anyone with anything,” Megino said.

Megino highlights Gonzales’ fiance, James Carey, and his deep commitment and dedication to her.

“They still planned on how to spend their time together. It’s incredible because not many people still believe in that kind of love, but they did,” Megino said.

Gonzales was set to wed Carey in February, but when she learned of the severity of her condition the date was moved up to November.

“It makes me sad to think of the wedding gown hanging in her closet that she never got to use,” Park said. “But those are the sad things I’m trying not to think about. Jamie had an incredible circle and we have all been clinging to each other to get through this.”

Park said she is clinging to the times that Gonzales was happy and healthy, to get through the rough times brought on by losing such a great friend.

Former Hornet editor and friend Nate Miller said many of her friends and family feel relief at the fact that she is no longer in pain.

“At our age this is one of the first people close to our age to die. And it’s not someone that just died; it was someone that was dying,” Miller said. “It wasn’t like an accident where all that pain compacts into one moment; we experienced peaks and valleys. But being able to come together has lessened our pain so we can remember her in the way that we liked.”

After Gonzales’ death, former staff of the Hornet and close friends of Gonzales’ were able to come together to recall the memories of the time they spent with her.

Gonzales kept a blog in the last few months she was alive in an attempt to help other people affected by cancer. In it she said:

“I will miss the people that I leave behind, but I know I will live in their hearts forever. And with the thousands of pictures that my friends and I have taken in our years at The State Hornet newspaper, they will remember me full of life and healthy.”

Gonzales is survived by her uncles Lee and Scott Rabé, aunts Stephanie and Dawn Rabé, cousins Kyle, Lacie, Conner and Megan Rabé, as well as her fiancé James Carey.

A private memorial service for Gonzales is scheduled for Nov. 8 for family and close friends.

Amanda Pollard can be reached at [email protected]