Little Blue Pilot Light of Humanity

Name: Rabia Ahmed

Location: New York, New York

Relationship to Jessica: Friend and fellow volunteer

The following e-mail and letter were written last year by Jessica’s friend, Rabia.


Dear Danielle,

My name is Rabia Ahmed and I was a friend of Jessica’s. We both volunteered with Acumen Fund and over the past few years developed a wonderful, light-hearted friendship. I think of Jessica often – when I’m stressed at work (I remember how gracefully she managed so many things in her life), when I hear a loud, hearty laugh and whenever I am doing stuff for Acumen. James gave me a picture of Jess and me from our last fundraiser which I keep on my desk at work. I look at every day to remember what an amazing spirit she was.

Back in January, I met your father at Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Carnegie Hall. When I got home, I was compelled to write a letter to Jess which I shared with James. He asked if I wanted to share it with you and so I have posted it below.

I hope to meet you one day and hopefully our paths will cross in the future.


Rabia & Jessica at Celebrate! for Acumen Fund on December 6, 2010

 Photo Credit: Jessica Rose Lehrman



Dear Jessica,

I missed you today. Actually, strike that. We missed you today.

Tonight we attended a concert at Carnegie Hall to benefit Acumen’s work in Pakistan. The orchestra played Beethoven’s 9th Symphony which was truly magical. I know you would have loved it and would have smiled through the entire performance. I can actually picture you sitting there, playbill in hand, smile on face.

The concert was to raise funds for Pakistan. Remember when we raised funds for Pakistan? I remember being touched by your passion and dedication to each and every detail related to our fundraiser. It amazed me; although you had never been to Pakistan, you really felt the plight of those less fortunate than yourself. You felt it in an actionable way which empowered you to do something. For me, Pakistan is in my blood, but for you, it was in your heart. I’ll always be grateful that you taught me to be compassionate of others, both similar and different than myself.

Tonight, I had the pleasure to finally meet your father. He recognized me from a picture we both took at Celebrate! You were wearing that gorgeous royal blue dress, purse over shoulder, drink in hand, and we were Celebrating Celebrate! You had gathered the volunteers, decorated the space, warmed the food and raised the money. You had this uncanny ability to organize-people, things, ideas. Wow.

Remember the day before the event when we sat in your room, going over the minute-by-minute details? You had it all planned and after we were done, we relaxed for a bit and talked about the Blue Sweater, joked about the down time and next steps with our jobs, with our lives. You told me how your doorman was sick of storing everything for us in the small storage space, but you, in your charming, sweet way had convinced him to do so.

Acumen held a very special place in your life. I know that from the time you took out to give to it. Whether it was rushing in from work, or leaving to help a friend, you made the time. You wanted to be part of the change, in some small (or in your case, large) way. I’ll forever be inspired by that.

Jess, my love for Pakistan and desire to help it, will forever be inextricably linked to the fun we had as members of NYfA. It’s people like you that give me hope that one day, somehow in time, that country can shine again. If everyone had your spirit and shine to give, imagine what we can do together for this world. You taught us to be selfless, regardless of how much or how little we have to give.

Tonight, towards the end of the concert, we heard the Ode to Joy and suddenly the emotion all came rushing back. Many in the audience quickly recognized this piece and for each of us it signified something different, something unique to our own experience. But for me, it reminded me of the work we have yet to accomplish. It’s not a one person job, but the job of a community. Although you aren’t here to see it, I wanted you to know that all that work, all that time, all that passion was not in vain. Your spirit affected so many of us: those who knew you and those who you never met, but wanted to help.

George Mathew, tonight’s conductor wrote in his letter to the attendees, “Thank you once again for joining us for this concert which is gathered not only to bring healing and renewal to the multitudes in Pakistan, but also to bear witness with music to what Leonard Bernstein called “our boastfully held little blue pilot light of humanity”– our capacity to love, no matter what the distances are that separate us in time, space, culture, language or religion.” And I hope you know, that no matter the distance, or culture, or space, you’ll always be thanked and missed by so many.

Your friend,

Dance, Girl…

Name: Rochelle Ballard

Location: New York, New York

Relationship to Jessica: Friends for Life!

I met Jessica at Georgetown but our friendship blossomed when we both moved to New York.

Ro & Jess laughing at Rochelle’s birthday party, April 2008
Ro & Jess at a party in Greece, July 2009


This is my second submission to Jessica’s website. I wanted to add a favorite memory that I’m sure the rest of the girls will appreciate and love… We would all agree that the hallmarks of our friendship with Jess included: “laughter,” “dancing,” and “fun.” Jess loved to dance! Whether it was a night out at the club, her birthday weekend in Miami where we jammed out to our own dance party in the living room, or at a class with me at Broadway Dance in our neighborhood. If the music was playing she was dancing.

I remember our weekend in Miami so vividly. We were all there to celebrate her birthday. On Saturday morning we all woke up, cooked breakfast and put on some music — this was not your typical meal, it was all a part of our themed celebration. The song “Bed Rock” by Lloyd came on and Jess had never heard the song before….Next thing you know, we are all dancing around the kitchen to the song. It became the theme song of the weekend; and a memorable time that we were fortunate enough to capture on video.

My last memory with Jess was at the Acumen Fund event on December 6th. She texted me saying, “Where are you, Ro? I need you here so we can dance!” I can still envision exactly how she would dance when her favorite song came on (lips pursed, fingers pointed, eyes gazing up and down)…how much she loved Beyonce or how she would sing along to Lady Gaga.

What I will miss most about my friendship with Jess are the memories we never had a chance to create. The trips we would have taken together…. the Business School experience we would have shared…the fun, laughs and “girl-friend” experiences that you cherish so much with your closest, most special friends. She was truly a friend for life.

Jess, I have you to thank you for bringing such great friends (your friends!) into my life. I will cherish the memories we all made together and for you, I will keep on dancing until the music stops.



Soul Sister

Name: Ashley Pitman

Location: New York, New York

Relationship to Jessica: Roommate; Soul-Sister

I first met Jessica at Georgetown – Senior Year.


I met Jessica several times at Georgetown and after graduation. I had no idea during all our fleeting encounters that she would very quickly become one of my closest and most trusted friends – a true soul-sister. I’ll never forget the day I told David Velasquez I was thinking about moving into the free room in Jess’s apartment and his face lit up. He said “Jessica Fashano is the nicest person EVER. You HAVE to live with her.” He was right! From the minute I moved in the friendship accelerated at a speed that I think surprised us both. The stream-of-consciousness emails and texts were non-stop. Even though she was always so busy at work, she seemed to know my schedule better than I did and she was the only person who asked me how my day was every single day.

Needless to say, living with Jessica for three years was one of the highlights of my life. The memories are countless, and even considering an amazing weekend in Madrid, my favorite moments were just chilling in her room, testing make-up shades, talking about food & travel, and sharing stories…only pausing to make dinner reservations when we’d finally decided on which of the dozens of restaurants on our “list” we were in the mood for. Rusty Knot for po boys and a pretzel dog was always the default back up.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which reminds me that Jess would always give up cheese for Lent. This made choosing restaurants during Lent really difficult as to avoid temptation. I’m sorry we won’t have to face that struggle this year.

I was lucky enough to have called Jess one of my best friends. I love and miss her every day and can only find peace knowing she is at peace.

Spanish Sisters

Name: Natalia Serrano

Location: Los Angeles, California

Relationship to Jessica: Friend/Fellow Trianera/Part of her extended Spain family

Jess and I were connected by our Spanish host family in 2004-05. We eventually met in New York a year later and then had a fabulous European weekend getaway in December of 2009. Jessica was a beloved friend and I will always consider her part of my family in Spain.

Natalia & Jessica in Sevilla, December 2009


My first introduction to Jessica was through the continual praise of my Spanish host family. Jessica was the first American student to live with them and I was the second. According to Marta, our Spanish sister, we had so much in common (including the fact that both Jess and I looked more Spanish than she) and she insisted we meet.

I met Jessica about a year after I finished my year abroad and was going to graduate school in New York. We decided to meet up for brunch and I remember my curiosity and excitement as I approached the restaurant. I had heard so much about Jessica during my year in Sevilla from our Spanish family and friends that it felt like I already knew her. You could tell Jess was a special breed just from the way people talked about her. After our brunch I couldn’t help but gush about her, too.

Our time together was brief, but the connection undeniable. We would schedule phone dates, email back and forth about the happenings in our lives, and send each other unexpected messages and photos of New York blizzards, California palm trees, and the Italian countryside. Our friendship may have been untraditional, but it was strong nonetheless.

In December of 2009, I decided to take a trip back to Spain. I mentioned the trip to Jess and suggested she come along. We excitedly began planning our trip back to Sevilla to celebrate Marta’s birthday and have a Spain host family reunion. Jess stayed with me in an apartment I rented in Triana and together we spent three whirlwind days rediscovering Sevilla and living life to the fullest.

I have many memories of Jess— her smile, her laugh, and her New Jersey way of saying “yea, yea, yea” when she agreed with me —but what resonates most is the memory of her sparkling spirit. I will be forever thankful for her presence in my life.


Jessica’s Patented 110%

Name: Christopher Powell

Location: New York, New York

Relationship to Jessica: Friend

Jessica and I have been friends since college at Georgetown.

Jess & Chris in Boston, Summer 2007


Every time I think of Jess, the first thing that comes to mind is that big bright smile.

You could literally turn towards Jessica, see her smiling, smile back, THEN she would turn it up a notch and just light up the room. You not only had to smile just then you’d have to laugh… it would be the only way possible to match the joy emanating from her face.

Her smile always made seeing her after a while a special event.

I miss your smile babe.

My memory revolves around this point. I remember having a conversation with Jess while I was in law school. She was telling me that she was going to be in a Citigroup Recruitment video. She eventually sent me a link (made me beg to see it)! I was very proud of her. But I loved the video’s intro. It started with her smiling and then you could tell the cameraman told her they were recording because her smile (which anyone who didn’t know her would have thought was at 100%) suddenly shot into Jessica’s patented 110%. She was beautiful and eloquent and proud. But that clip couldn’t convey how compassionate she was as well.

Jessica's Patented 110% Smile from the Recruitment Video



Name: Kourtney Hydock

Location: Mendham, New Jersey

Relationship to Jessica: Best friend

I’ve known Jessica for 25 years.  We grew up together on Forest Way.


My nearest & dearest friend Jessica:

Where to begin…I always envied the person you were but more so the person you were becoming. I knew we were not always together but we were never too far apart either. We had the type of friendship where we could pick up right where we left off and that to me is the type of friendship I knew could last forever. There was no doubt in my mind that one day you were going to be a bridesmaid in my wedding – if I ever find the right guy. I know now instead you will be looking down at me and probably laughing at me thinking to yourself, “Kourt you are being ridiculous spending way too much money on your makeup and hair.” I can see it now.

Jessica, you have blessed my life for the past 27 years. I will always remember Pepperoni House and the various memories we created at both our houses on Forest Way. I still cannot believe my parents decided to move out of Trailwood. I always went shopping with my Mom instead of hanging out with you, Kristen & Danielle as children. Sorry about that, shopping got the best of me as always. You were the first one to call me Dorts because you couldn’t pronounce Kourt too well back then.

I will always cherish our Miami trip with Nicole and Theresa and more than anything, the family cruises we went on together, especially when we got off the dock in Bermuda without Danielle because she didn’t want to go clubbing but Jeff however did. We had one of the best nights. You called the guy Steve I met on the cruise “waiter boy” because he always wore a tux and left it on during formal nights. HAHA. I actually told him that recently when I saw him again. The many overnight trips I came to visit you in the big apple especially for you bringing me to Tenjune on your birthday you knew how badly I wanted to check out that spot. What a classic night that was.

The memory that will play back in my mind forever is doing baseball stats with you junior & senior year of high school. I know you were ambivalent about it at first and I know you did it to spend time with me as you put in my yearbook and that truly meant the most to me. It was a great way to spend time together and get an appreciation for the sport. There were countless laughs and probably many mistakes mainly on my part but all in great fun.

How can we forget prom 2001 we had to get a flashy limousine from the city and of course what color interior did it have but yellow. You started crying when you saw it. Who wouldn’t they were one and a half hours late to pick us up.

You wrote in my yearbook that we would grow to be old ladies together and that unfortunately doesn’t hold true anymore Jess…oh how I wish that was the case. I remember your laugh and smile like it was yesterday. The way you carried yourself with such dignity and class. You were my once in a lifetime friend. I will look back on these memories and so many more and hold them near and dear in my heart forever. You showed me what friendship is all about.

We would have celebrated twenty five years of our friendship this year. Not too many people could say that. “It is by chance that we met, by choice that we became friends.”

I loved you when I was 2 ½ and I love you more than ever at 27. You will forever be a part of me, Jessbabes.

Your one & only Dorts. xOx

Girls Trip to Greece

Name: Lauren Albert

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Relationship to Jessica: Georgetown and post-college roommate

I’ve known Jess for 9 years. We met on our first day of college – she lived across the hall from me, and we were pretty much attached at the hip for the rest of college! We then moved to NYC together after college, and lived together until I moved to Boston in October of 2006.

Jess & Lauren in Mykonos, August 2009


Jess and I had been dreaming of going to Greece together for at least five years, and were finally able to make it happen with a few of our other girlfriends in August 2009.  I was extremely excited to spend ten straight days with Jess, since we hadn’t had more than long weekends together since I moved to Boston.  We were so truly happy on this trip and it was just like when we were roommates – getting ready together to go out on the town each night and staying up late chatting about nothing and everything in our room each night.

The above picture was taken on our first day in Mykonos, a very windy day! (I’m sure Jess was wondering if her hair looks ok!) My luggage was lost for the first couple days, so like the selfless friend Jess was when any of her friends was in need of help, Jess let me borrow her clothes and anything else I needed, so I’m wearing her dress here. Later in the trip she also helped hold my hair back when I got sea-sick on a 6-hour ferry, and I will always remember what a great friend she was for doing that!  Of course she made a joke out of the situation, and had me laughing through it!

Jess was in love with life on this trip and I will always remember how happy and lively she was.  After we stayed up late dancing and celebrating Greek-style each night, Jess would pop out of bed early the next morning before anyone else, and we’d find her rejuvenated and relaxed out by the pool reading a book, or on our deck planning our exciting agenda for the day, while guarding our breakfast from the crazy wild Greek kittens begging for food!  She motivated us all to get up and get the most out of each day.

Jess’ fun, energetic and adventurous nature let loose on this trip and resulted in many hilarious memories, yet she was still the organized one with the great restaurant, beach and sight-seeing ideas, and was also still the motherly one that took care of each of us in different ways throughout the 10 days (and made sure we made our flights and reservations on time!) – basically she was everything to all of us. 

After we got back from Greece, Jess would send us quotes, trip recaps, songs and photos for the next several months while still on the high from our trip.  Once we all had our photos uploaded into our separate albums, Jess had wanted us to compile them into one “master” album.  Unfortunately, we never got around to doing this while Jess was still here with us, so I made the slideshow below for Jess.  Sorry this took so long, Jess, but I hope you like it – you are the shining star, just as you were on our trip!


Jess showed her true colors on this trip, and my wish is for all of us to carry her spirit on – she was always considerate with her heart, generous with her love and always made a point to have fun and find humor in everything.  I love and miss you terribly, Jessbabes.

Tres Dedos

Name: Sandra Mergeanian

Location: New York, New York

Relationship to Jessica: Friend

I met Jess the first day we arrived in Sevilla, Spain for our study abroad experience in January 2004. We clicked instantaneously and have been very close friends ever since.

Jessica & Sandra, New Year's Eve 2007


Tres Dedos...Jessica, Sandra, & Monica


Dear Fashano,

Just as I sang you “The Sandwich Song” on the banks of the Guadalquivir River in Sevilla, Spain, on your 21st birthday (only a month after meeting you), I sing (more like belt) an excerpt of this most goofy song to you again, to bring a huge smile to your face, that is, on your 28th birthday:

“Sandwiches are beautiful, Sandwiches are fine. I like sandwiches, I eat them all the time;
I eat them for my supper and I eat them for my lunch; If I had a hundred sandwiches, I’d eat them all at once…”

Although the most defining experience we shared was study abroad (those six months in España were probably some of the happiest in our lives), I chose a picture from NYE 2007 to share with everyone because it points out that our friendship transcended Spain. I actually knew from Day 1 that I met a “life friend.”

The two of us went to Tavern on the Green. Logistically, the night was a complete bust. We waited in line for over an hour in the cold to get in; the countdown didn’t even take place at midnight; and the place was extremely overcrowded. We didn’t let any of this get in our way of having the time of our lives. We met people from all over the world, ate and drank plenty, and danced the night away into the wee hours.

Jess, you were such a quality human being, a true confidante and ever loyal, considerate and generous friend. I am struggling with this most tremendous loss. Know that I love you and miss you so much.

Tres Dedos.


Dear Pen Pal…

Name: Tiffany Biason

Location: New York, New York

Relationship to Jessica: Pen Pal and Friend

Jess and I have been pen pals since 4th grade. I received a chain letter with a list of about 6 people and their addresses (this would NOT be ok in this day and age)! The instructions were to send a letter to the person at the top of the list. There were other complicated instructions to remove the top person’s name, add your own name at the bottom, and send copies of the new list to 7 other people. Jessica’s name was at the top of the list, so I sent her a letter, most likely asking her if she wanted to be pen pals. She actually wrote back to me, and the rest is history.

Jessica & Tiffany when they first met in Miami, October 2001

Tiffany & Jessica in NYC, July 2009


Dear Pen Pal,

When I found out that you were gone, I could only think of our conversation during our last brunch together. I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Should I have known that it would be the last time I would see you? Are there words of comfort that I could have shared?

I was at home in Texas one month after you left. I found shoeboxes full of your old letters and pictures. Do you remember how we wrote page after page about the music we loved and the concerts we went to? We gushed and griped about boys, and sent pictures of ourselves with these silly boys from our junior high and high school dances. It seems that you were always the picture enforcer, as evidenced by the numerous reminders that you would write throughout the letter, in the margins, as a “P.S,” and in some instances, a “P.P.S.” We sent each other pictures and descriptions of our first cars, but not before you first described the jobs you worked to earn money for the car. I have postcards of your many family trips to Aruba, and remember thinking it must be a great place if it’s worth going back so many times. You wrote me a letter from your car ride to Georgetown. You talked about your “last summer” and how you were so sad to leave your friends in Jersey.

Then there was the first letter after we met in Miami. Finally, pictures that included both us…together! And you wrote, “Guess what, I loved ya!” The feeling was, of course, mutual. I couldn’t believe how much we hit it off, but after so many years and so many letters, how could we not? There was the letter from before you left for Spain, and the letter with the news that you would be working in New York.

Our world changed, and we wrote fewer letters, but sent more emails and texts. After years of writing on Snoopy and Lisa Frank stationary, we shared our stories in person, over brunch or dinner.

I am finally able to laugh while thinking of you. I smile at the thought of how young and impressionable we were before we became ambitious New Yorkers. I have to think about these happy times more often. It reminds me of how special our relationship is, and the special kind of friend you are.

Happy Birthday, Jess. One final memory, in a letter you wrote:
“I remember your birthday because it is 10 days before Christmas. You can remember mine because it’s on Valentine’s Day.”

I will never forget you, my dear Pen Pal. I miss you more than words can say.

Your Pen Pal,

A Heart for Others

Name: Michelle Javian

Location: New York, NY

Relationship to Jessica: Roommate for life, dear friend

I met Jessica during our 1st week at Georgetown University in Southside Cafeteria 10 years ago.

Jessica & Michelle, Hamptons, July 2007

American Heart Association 5K Wall Street Walk/Run, May 2009


As I’ve thought about Jessica (also known as “Jess” or “Fash”) over the past several weeks, two recent experiences have come to mind, which capture how much I learned from her about loving and giving. In early December, we collaborated on a fundraiser for Harboring Hearts Housing, the charity I co-founded after my dad passed away from heart disease. Jess was always looking for ways to support worthy causes, and when she said she could help out with this event, I was thrilled and honored to have her co-chair the event. This event was particularly meaningful for us because it was a shopping night at Jessie James Boutique, a shop we’d discovered together 5 years ago and visited ever since. Thanks to Jess’s planning, everyone had a wonderful time, and we raised $1,200 for Harboring Hearts. But I was especially touched by how Jess went above and beyond to make sure that the evening was special. She got cupcakes donated for the event, she made gift bags for the participants, and she even paid for heart-shaped soaps out of her own money. Jess had a lot going on at the time—she was applying to grad schools, she was preparing to leave her job, and she was dealing with all of the emotional ups and downs that come with the holidays. But she still took the time to give of herself to help friends and support a worthy cause.

The second experience was at Jess’s funeral. Like so many others, I was full of grief and confusion at having lost such a dear, wonderful friend. Jess and I had been roommates for three years at Georgetown, and we’d remained very close when we both moved to New York after graduation. After 10 years of being friends, it seemed impossible that she was gone. Among the others attending the wake and the funeral, I saw a former roommate of ours from Georgetown. We had not parted on the best of terms. But she was there at Jess’s wake, and when I saw her, all of those hard feelings melted away. I gave her a hug, and we were able to mourn together for the loss of a friend we’d both loved. This made me realize how much Jess had always taught me about loving, forgiving, and bringing people together. She was a connector. Whether it was connecting me with her group of friends in New York or bringing two estranged roommates together again after several years, Jess had a talent for making personal connections. In fact, she may have been so good at loving and giving that she never learned enough how to receive and replenish herself when she was feeling empty.

I miss you, Fash!

There are so many things that I miss about Fash. I’ll miss her hugs and smile, so full of warmth and love and support, even when she didn’t have words. I’ll miss how she was always there for me—even leaving work to bring me soup if I was feeling sick. I’ll miss her reminders that I should keep my receipts and her recommendations of Spanish authors to read. I’ll miss her commitment to social enterprise, and I’ll never forget how either she or her family members would attend every Harboring Hearts event that I put on. I’ll miss how she always had a funny story to tell. I’ll miss the on-going list of activities that we planned to do together, whether it was something small like getting corn muffins together in the Hampton’s or sitting by my fireplace and playing Apples to Apples, or something big like traveling to Greece. I’ll miss how much she wanted everyone to be happy.

Jessica, I love you and I miss you so much, and I’ll never stop learning from your example.