Simpson community holds memorial service for Jake Hartvigsen


by Kylee Hereid, Staff Reporter

Simpson students and faculty gathered in Lekberg Hall Tuesday to say goodbye to a fellow student who died from brain cancer.

Jacob Hartvigsen was just beginning his junior year at Simpson when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was active in Simpson’s pep band, concert band, orchestra, and jazz band and was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

According to Hartvigsen’s family, he had a deep love for music but especially enjoyed jazz.

The Rev. Mara Bailey, the chaplain at Simpson, opened the memorial with a greeting to the community, followed by a musical performance by the Simpson Men of Music and a scripture reading by College President Jay Simmons.

“There is so much power in being able to gather as a community,” Bailey said. “No words I can say, no scripture read, could make today any easier.”

The community then sang in honor of Hartvigsen’s memory, whether they knew him or not.

Freshman Autumn Ulrich was among those who attended the service without ever having met Hartvigsen. Shortly after the service began, she was in tears.

“It was really emotional,” she said. “I never had the opportunity to meet him, but after hearing everything people had to say about him, I wish I had.”

After the hymn had concluded, Bailey offered words of assurance to the gathering.

“I hope what we find is not just tears of sadness and grief, but of celebration, memories and hope,” she said.

Remembrances were delivered by Simpson faculty member Dave Camwell and students Dalten Cross, Sage Lenertz and Thomas Kolbo.

Camwell, who directed the band, told stories about his experiences working with Hartvigsen in band.

His first story invoked laughter, explaining Hartvigsen’s frustration with his director’s difficulty in pronouncing his name. His last story brought heavy hearts as he shared the last words he shared with his former student.

“Jake’s death is a reminder to hug and tell everyone that you care about that you love and cherish them,” Camwell said. “Time is fleeting. Life is often unfair.”

Cross, a friend and fraternity brother, told the crowd stories highlighting his friend’s caring personality, describing Hartvigsen as an egg with a hard shell and soft center.

“I know above else he wants to be known across campus as the best trumpet player,” Cross said. “But to me, he will always be the friend that cared.”

Sage Lenertz then stood to discuss the time she spent with Hartvigsen during the last year of his life. Lenertz was not only Hartvigsen’s friend but also his girlfriend.

“Our time together was short,” she said. “But I can honestly say he has left a lasting impact on my life. I am very thankful to have known him and to have shared part of my life with him.”

Thomas Kolbo, Hartvigsen’s roommate, took the stage to share his memories.

Kolbo talked about the struggles he has faced since Hartvigsen’s death. He explained classes were difficult because he would find himself looking at the empty chair Hartvigsen had once occupied.

“Even in his passing, I still learn lessons from this man,” Kolbo said. “He passed away, but he still lives on.”

He told a story to the group about an experience he had shortly after Hartvigsen’s death. He was looking back on memories while listening to music, and a piano piece began to play. The song, Kolbo explained, reflected what he felt and helped him move forward.

“Here at Simpson, we are one community,” he said. “I was reminded I was not alone in this struggle.”

He played the composition over the speakers for students, the notes of the piano echoing in the music hall as students and faculty listened in near silence. The piece was titled “Dreamer” and was composed by Anthony Greninger.

After the composition ended, Robert Larsen, professor emeritus of music, directed the Madrigal Singers in song, and Baily shared a statement from the Hartvigsen family, who was also in attendance.

Ellie Olsen, director of counseling services, encouraged students to reach out for help in their grief.

“Grief is hard and messy and confusing,” she said. “It is very unpredictable in that it strikes us in ways we don’t expect and at times we don’t expect.”

She talked about how grief is normal that students should continue to come together to support and grieve with one another.

“We want you to know there is support available for you here on campus,” she said.

To conclude the memorial, students took the stage to honor Hartvigsen with the music he loved most.

Camwell directed a jazz ensemble saying, “This is for Jake.”