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Oct 02, 2017

Holmdel Community Mourns Loss of High School Student Who Proved “It’s a Wonderful Life”

By Joanne Colella

The Holmdel school community was in mourning last month, following the sudden, unexpected passing of Holmdel High School junior Jack Dowd, whose father, Mr. Sean Dowd, is a longtime English teacher at Holmdel High School. Jack is also survived by his mother Rosaline and his brother Casey, a sixth grade student. The 16-year-old lacrosse player, a long stick midfielder and defender for the high school varsity team, collapsed on Sunday, September 17 during a travel league scrimmage game at Rutgers University in New Brunswick and was rushed to a local hospital. It was later discovered that the teen had an undetected congenital heart condition.

A GoFundMe page, at https://www.gofundme.com/jack-dowd-fundraiser, was immediately created to assist the Dowd family. It began with an initial goal of raising $70,000 and within seven days, nearly 1,000 people had contributed almost $75,000 – together with posted comments of love, comfort, support, and sympathy for the beloved teen and his family. Hundreds of friends, neighbors, family members, and others from throughout the community turned out for his wake and funeral mass, held at St. Catharine’s Church in Holmdel. Many of them shared precious memories and stories of Jack’s kindness, compassion, upbeat demeanor, work ethic, and competitiveness.

In a poignant letter to the community, the Dowd family shared:

We wanted to reach out to all those grieving with us and sending their love and prayers. I know we have all spent the last couple of days grieving and many of us have been trying to cope with the unfairness of it all, and asking “Why?” Though there will never be an acceptable answer to this question, we did receive a small sense of closure after speaking to the medical examiner.

Jack had a medical condition known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). It is a congenital condition and often the cause of sudden death in young people, specifically young athletes. There was no way for us to know that Jack suffered from this and it was not something we would have ever tested for in his yearly checkups. It was also something that could have happened at any time and was not directly related to how hard he competed in his chosen sport of lacrosse, which gave us some comfort, as we struggled with the thoughts of what we could have done to prevent what happened. There was nothing we could have done, and as hard as it is to accept, we need to try to appreciate the 16-plus years he blessed us all with.

We have also struggled with the fact that we were not there when it happened, and only saw him when he was already at the hospital, and already gone, despite the valiant efforts of those on the field who immediately sprang into action and the tireless attempts to bring him back by the medical staff at the hospital. Mercifully, Jack was gone the moment he fell to the ground.

As heart-wrenching as it was to hear that, we found out what happened in the moments before he left us. He was on the field playing a sport he had grown to love, with teammates and friends he had come to admire and draw strength from. Right before he collapsed, he was laughing with these friends on the sidelines, with that smile that we all loved and adored. He never regained consciousness, he never started breathing again. But he left this world with a smile on his face, and we would like to remember him that way.

In the coming days, and weeks, and months we would like to continue to share our thoughts and our sincerest appreciation for the incredible support and love sent our way. One of Jack’s middle names was Bailey, and this was because one of his Dad’s greatest heroes is George Bailey from “It’s A Wonderful Life.” We wanted that character to be a part of who he was, and it came true. And though we feel like utter failures for not being able to do something to keep him with us, we draw strength from our Jack Bailey Clarence and know that “No man is a failure who has friends.” We are feeling that as we receive your thoughts and prayers, and it has provided us with overwhelming comfort. We will need even more in the days ahead. Please continue to keep Jack’s spirit alive for us and with us. Be kind to one another, let go of the silly, unimportant things, and focus on making others happy, and this world a better place. That is how he will remain with us all.

– With peace and love, Casey, Rosaline, and Sean

In lieu of flowers, the Dowd family has requested donations to a scholarship fund they are starting in Jack’s name so his dedication to academics and fierce devotion to excellence can live on in those he leaves behind. Please make checks payable to Holmdel High School (Jack Dowd Scholarship in comment line) 36 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733.