Jonathan Judge got his diploma from Northview High School last week, about a month before his classmates. He proudly wore his cap and gown, and the superintendent and principal as well as family members, his minister, and friends congratulated the 18-year-old honor student on his accomplishment.
The young man died Saturday with family members holding him "on Mother's Day eve," his mother, Christen, said.
The cancer that first struck him when he was 7 had proven fatal, "but Jonathan never complained. He always had a sense of humor. He was very selfless and concerned for others," Mrs. Judge said.
Although school officials had been ready most of this year to present a diploma to the student who had maintained a 4.0 grade point average, he had hoped to be able to go through the graduation ceremony scheduled for June 13.
"He realized he couldn't get there," Mrs. Judge said, so last Thursday he got his diploma in a private ceremony at home.
"It was a nice day, and he got his diploma on the deck of the family home. It was poignant and it was powerful," Dr. Brad Rieger, superintendent of Sylvania schools, said. "He had an impact on a lot of people and on a lot of his classmates." The first cancer diagnosis came when the family lived in California, and treatment involved kidney removal, open-heart surgery, as well as chemotherapy and radiation.
After all the debilitating treatments, he was declared cancer-free.
The family moved back to the Toledo area, Mrs. Judge said, and he resumed the life of a healthy youngster while attending Arbor Hills Junior High School. But the disease returned prior to his freshman year at Northview.
He underwent stem-cell replacement and was home-schooled through that year.
Through his life, Mrs. Judge said, Jonathan had cancer five times.
Despite bouts of illness and time off for treatments, he was able to attend school most days through his sophomore and junior years, and much of his senior year until about Christmas.
Kathy Peace, his guidance counselor, said that through most of his junior year his mother, who is a special education teacher at the high school, would take him to Ann Arbor for treatment after school, and he would often be back the next day.
About a month ago, one of the senior girls asked him to the school's turn-around dance, and he was able to attend, Ms. Peace said.
Although treatments often left him with reduced stamina, he was determined to finish school, Ms. Peace said.
He loved sports and he loved writing, "and would have been a wonderful sports journalist," the counselor said.
"You couldn't ask for a nicer young man."
Ms. Peace noted that he had many friends at school and a core group of 15 to 20 often visited him at his home.
Mrs. Judge said youngsters from school and his church were often in the home during the last few months.
"He always thanked God for the blessings in his life," Mrs. Judge said.
She added that while his friends prayed for his recovery, he said he would ask if he could pray for them, because he received comfort doing that.
The Rev. Greg Haueter, senior high minister at Westgate Chapel, said, "Jonathan had a better and broader perspective than most of us."
"He was always thinking of others, and one of his last wishes was that his story be put together to minister to other children with cancer."
The perspective came from his circumstance and his faith, Mr. Haueter said.
He and his wife lost a 3-year-old daughter to cancer some years ago, "and Jonathan taught me a lot. He answered a lot of questions I had."
In many respects, "he had no time for small things," but the competitiveness he showed in fighting his disease also came through in video games.
"He was a fighter," Mr. Haueter said.
His father, David, said his son was a fan of nearly every sport and often watched them on television.
This month, Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, visited their home, and "I remember my son said, 'It's not often that a person gets to meet a great NFL coach.'●"
"Then Tony Dungy said, 'It's not often that a person gets to meet a great guy like you,'●"
Mr. Dungy had been in Toledo to speak at a banquet of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Jonathan recently received recognition as Student of the Month from the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce and a Westfield Agents $500 scholarship. Based on test scores and his high school grades, he received scholarship offers from Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, Ohio University, and Ohio's Miami University.
"This kid made an impact," said Kevin Gorman, Northview principal, who held a faculty meeting yesterday to discuss the death. "We'll have counselors and psychologists here for the students," he said.
Jonathan was born in Vancouver on Aug. 1, 1985.
Surviving are his parents, David and Christen; sister, Julianne; brother, Michael; and grandmothers, Frances Haddad and Shirley Judge.
The body will be in the Walker Funeral Home, 5155 Sylvania Ave., after 2 p.m. today. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Westgate Chapel.
The family suggests tributes to Westgate Chapel.