Democrat File Photo
Jessica Fingers in action at the Monticello Games in 2009, the year she graduated high school and earned a scholarship to Columbia University.
'She was well-liked'
By Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO April 2, 2013 A young, popular and much loved Monticello High School and Columbia University track star was found dead of an apparent overdose early Sunday morning.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, Jessica Fingers’ lifeless body was discovered face-up on the floor of a friend’s East Campus Residence Hall about 11:45 a.m. by her alleged boyfriend. Fingers was reportedly visiting a friend at the Morningside Drive dormitory.
Fingers graduated Monticello High School in 2009, leveraging her success as a cross-county and distance runner to earn a full ride at the prestigious Ivy League school.
But health problems Fingers suffered a stroke in early 2012, apparently due to a series of blood-clots she developed in her brain led her to take a leave of absence after the spring 2012 semester.
Fingers’ last known job in the area was at the Monticello Bagel Bakery, where she worked for a little more than six months. About four months ago she abruptly moved back to the City.
When a reporter walked into the popular eatery Monday morning the sense of loss was palpable; the generally loud bakery/deli was muted.
In speaking to several of Fingers’ former co-workers and customers, the common theme was Fingers’ unforgettable smile.
Bagel Bakery regular Jerry Monroe, said, “She has that infectious smile. She was such a sweetheart and her smile could brighten up this entire town. She was an angel with a bright future ahead of her.… It’s just a tragic shame.”
Friends and former co-workers Gracelie Medina and Natalie Diaz were inconsolable Monday. Offered Medina, “She was just an extremely caring and loving person. She was always happy and was just a great worker and friend.”
“The best way I can think to describe her… that smile,” said Diaz. “You just couldn’t see her big smile and not smile [yourself].”
A glance at mother Athena Fingers-Bellamy’s Facebook page shows an endless stream of messages of support and sorrow from family and friends shocked by the loss.
Said Monticello Bagel Bakery owner Bob Fleischman of his former employee: “She was here for about six months… she was just supposed to be getting her affairs in order and then head back to school… it’s just so sad, and unfortunately very common.
“She was obviously very well liked here,” Fleischman added. “She was just an extremely friendly young lady, to both customers and co-workers. A great girl from a great family. … Whether you do good or bad, there are just no guarantees in life.”
“I had known Jess for about eight years. I was so fortunate to have been able to witness the grace and spirit with which she rewrote the middle distance record book at Monticello. Her hard work, boundless enthusiasm, yoga classes and biscotti will never be forgotten by those who were there. We will all miss her,” said Pete Wysochanski, who coached Fingers on the high school track team. “I pray for her family and all her friends. There are always questions, grief, anger and/or a sense of loss, but I can never figure any of those things out, so I’d just like to thank Jess and her family for all they gave me and for letting me be there for those eight years. She was such a kind soul.”
Village of Monticello Parks and Recreation head Mike Greco who knew Fingers as a student-athlete, and more recently as a friend commented, “It’s devastating to lose someone with so much potential and it’s just very sad, but it’s important also to remember Jessica for how she lived, not for how she died.”
An autopsy and toxicology report is pending, but police officials do believe Fingers’ death was caused by a drug overdose and do not suspect foul-play in the matter.
Attempts to reach Fingers’ family garnered no response as of press time.