By Jeanne Sager
FALLSBURG January 23. 2004 It was a tragedy wracked in irony.
A Town of Bethel highway crew sanding Airport Road noticed a car off to the side early Tuesday morning.
Nearby the vehicle was the body of Guadalupe Jasmine Martinez, a 17-year-old Fallsburg student whose friends describe as a girl full of life.
Her car had apparently gone off the road near the picnic area at the countys airport ironically within a few thousand feet of Sullivan Countys 911 Center.
She was taken to Catskill Regional Medical Center by Mobilemedic ambulance and pronounced dead on arrival.
Police are still investigating the cause of the accident. They arent even sure when it happened based on accounts from Martinezs boyfriend, who she was visiting in Smallwood Monday evening, it could have occurred anytime between 11 p.m. and early morning.
But the grieving has already begun at Fallsburg High School, where students and teachers are remembering a girl who always had a smile on her face, a girl who loved shopping and had her eyes on the future.
Listening to students in his office pouring out their hearts about a classmate and friend, Larry Schafman felt as though he was getting to know someone incredible.
Were really getting a sense of how beautiful this person was, he noted.
There was no one in the school of several hundred teens who had a bad word to say about the girl they called Jasmine.
Amanie Awney called Martinez her best friend, a friend who was there for her when everyone else had abandoned her.
She could light up a room if she just walked into it, Awney said. She didnt even have to say anything.
Awney wants people to remember the peals of laughter that rang out from Martinezs heart, how she loved being with her friends and shopping at the Galleria in Middletown.
Once a week, Martinez and her girlfriends would pile into a car and raid the Chinese place, Awney recalled, and Martinez was right in the middle of all the fun.
Halley Hiatt became close to Martinez when she started feeling a rift in her friendships with other students in the ninth grade.
Jasmine took me, no questions asked, Hiatt explained. She was very accepting of me she never talked bad about anyone.
With her long blonde hair and hazel eyes, Hiatt said Martinez was a beautiful person, both inside and out.
She accentuated that with her love of clothing, added Gloria Vasquez, another senior who had known Martinez since they were young children, reconnecting in seventh grade.
She loved going to Charlotte Russe and Wet Seal, and she loved shoes she had sooo many, Vasquez recalled with a laugh. And she was just such a good person, her smile, her laugh.
That laugh and that smile are things Erick Hernandez will never forget.
The Fallsburg senior was drawn to Martinezs easygoing nature in third grade, and theyd been fast friends ever since.
Just last week he looked at Martinez and noticed she had the most beautiful eyes hed ever seen.
He told English teacher Patty Bertholf he was glad hed told her that last Friday.
Hernandez will always remember Martinez as a happy person, someone who was never in a bad mood, he said.
She always had a smile on her face, and she had the most contagious laugh youd ever heard, he whispered through tears. She was great, and Ill miss her.
Fallsburgs staff will miss the consummate student.
Always attentive and conscientious, Martinez was first to raise her hand in class and eager to join in discussions.
She was a bright kid, Bertholf noted. She was considerate and kind, and a very humorous kid.
Shes the kind of kid who wanted to get things done.
Mike Weiner calls her the sweetheart of his social studies classes, a hard worker who was dedicated to her fellow students.
You never had a problem from her, he noted. She was there, she always participated . . . she was a gem.
Guidance Counselor Joe Levner has known Martinez since she was in seventh grade, and he wishes every kid who sits in front of his desk could be just like her.
She was the type of kid all others should strive to be like, he said.
Although she was an average student who had firm plans to go to Orange County Community College, then transfer to SUNY New Paltz to pursue a degree in early education, Levner said she was a 10 times better person.
This is the second tragedy to hit Fallsburg this school year teacher Brian Steeves died in an accident right after Thanksgiving and the crisis management team stepped in to help both students and faculty deal with their grief.
So far, the staff and students have been supportive of each other, according to Principal Jerome Watts.
Rooms have been set up in the school for students to go to when they need to talk, and resources are available at all times.
The school even arranged for buses to take students to the funeral service Thursday morning at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Woodbourne.
Watts plans to sit down with the senior class today to plan a memorial service for Martinez.
For now, the students have made up red ribbons with Martinezs name and birthday (March 1, 1986) which theyre selling to raise money for the family.
Martinez was predeceased by her father, Chito Martinez, and the family plans to ship her body back to El Salvador to be buried next to him.
So far the students and staff have offered up a few thousand dollars, but the total costs will be more than $6,000 for the family.
Checks made out to the Fallsburg Central School District can be sent to Mike Weiner at Fallsburg High School, 115 Brickman Road, Fallsburg, NY 12733 to help offset the cost of the funeral arrangements.
For more information, call Weiner at 434-6800, ext. 258.