Arguably the most important time of a teenager’s life is their high school years. In most cases, for those roughly 48 months, kids learn about themselves, they prepare for college and develop relationships with people that last their entire lives. Now, image going through those months without a parent. Jordyn Gallant had to.
Just two months into high school, Jordyn’s father passed away, but four years later, Gallant – now a freshman Physician Assistant major at Springfield College – has no trouble talking about that time in her life. In fact, she finds joy in talking about her father, saying, “I love talking about our memories just because it makes me happy.”
Her father, Steve Gallant, passed away at age 47 on Nov. 14, 2009 at 2:14 a.m. at the Holyoke Medical Center of a heart attack. It was completely unexpected.
“He was suffering the symptoms, but it wasn’t something [the doctors] caught beforehand,” Jordyn Gallant said.
Her father was a self-employed contractor, owning the Steve Gallant Building and Remodeling Company, a now-defunct business.
“He would do anything to have fun with me,” Jordyn said, smiling, as it is apparent that she enjoys reminiscing about her father and the time she spent with him. “Having so many memories with him made things easier.”
In fact, Jordyn’s last memory of her father seems to describe him fairly well. On Halloween night, Gallant was about to leave her home in South Hadley, Mass. As she was preparing to leave, she saw her father sitting on the couch in only his underwear, eating cookies. Chuckling, Gallant said goodbye, not knowing that it was for the last time.
As a result of his passing, Gallant faced a litany of struggles that most high school students do not usually have to deal with.
“My mom and grandparents initially reacted a lot worse than I did. It didn’t really hit me at first…The person that took it the worst was my mother [because] she showed it the most,” Gallant said.
On top of that, friendship became an issue for both her personally and for her family as a whole, as some of the closer friends backed away, unable to react, while ones that were not near as close stepped in to console the Gallants.
Returning to school was also troublesome for Gallant. After taking a week off, she returned only to find out that the Friday before she returned, the teacher told the other students not to bring anything up. This not only generated a lonely school environment for Gallant, but a frustrating one, as the teacher indirectly encouraged students to isolate her.
On the laundry list of struggles that ensued from her father’s death, one prototypical father-daughter experience, or lack thereof, holds vast bearing on Jordyn’s life: driving.
“You always think of your dad teaching you to drive, but obviously he couldn’t,” Gallant said.
The toughest pill to swallow for Gallant, however, was her mother dating.
“[It] was the biggest struggle, accepting that she was seeing other people. That brought out all the emotions in me,” she divulged. “I still to this day don’t really accept it; [they] were just one of those couples that really loved each other and everyone knew it.”
A silver lining to the situation, however, was Sean Sheridan, a junior at Springfield College from the same town as Jordyn. The two have been dating since Jan. 10, 2010. When asked what impact Jordyn’s father’s death had on their relationship, Sean’s response was simple: “What didn’t it have an impact on?”
The two met at a haunted house that a mutual friend put together. Gallant happened to be working it the night she and Sheridan met, the night before Steve Gallant passed away. A few nights later, Sheridan was back at the same house, only to hear of what happened to the girl he was talking to all but just a few nights before.
“It really bothered me; I couldn’t get it out of my head,” Sheridan admitted.
Shortly thereafter, he messaged her on Facebook, offering condolences.
“After it happened, I felt like I needed to say something,” said Sheridan.
A few days later, they ran into each other at cotillion. After the exchanges there and on Facebook, it was not long before Sean and Jordyn were together. Just shy of four years later, they are still happily together, despite coming from completely opposite backgrounds.
“She is very spontaneous and lives in the moment… My family is much more organized, while they would always do things like day trips,” said Sheridan. “The overall enjoyment of life and complete goofiness separates her family from all others.”
One thing that anyone who knows Gallant on a personal level can say about her is that her father’s best traits have certainly rubbed off on her. Gallant’s roommate, Kayla McCarthy, could tell from the first time she met her that Gallant was something special.
“She was so nice, genuinely nice. She wasn’t obnoxiously fake, rather so down to Earth and open,” McCarthy said. “My parents are very open and came up and hugged her and she had no problem with it.”
Having lived with Gallant and met her family over the course of the past three months, McCarthy certainly has a much more clear grasp on why Jordyn is the way she is.
“Her family is very open and happy…They interact with each other and laugh, they don’t just sit there in silence,” said McCarthy in regards to her first experience with her family. “Being with a more open family makes you a more open person.”
Above all else, though, one trait stands out the most: “selflessness.”
“I ask for help a lot and she will drop anything to help me, which she has done multiple times and doesn’t think twice about it,” McCarthy said.
Now that Gallant has become acclimated to life without her father, she also has to begin the journey of college, a time when many students seek the guidance of parents to attain success. Jordyn, however, has not missed a beat.
“She always seems happy, and seems like she is very well-adjusted,” said her Resident Assistant, Caroline Kennedy.
Gallant certainly lives up to Kennedy’s description, as she thrives in school, both in and out of the classroom. She also serves as a student ambassador to attract prospective students to Springfield College.
Inside the classroom, however, she finds excellence as the result of a deal her father made with her in middle school.
“He promised me in middle school that if I made the honor roll for all four quarters, he would get a tattoo,” Jordyn said with a smile. And as it turns out, she did. The tattoo unfortunately was never inked onto Steve Gallant’s body.
“He had the plans all drawn out, but he never had the chance to get it done,” said Gallant.
Despite this, however, she took it as motivation to continue to excel in school, which led to her acceptance into the competitive Physician Assistant program at Springfield College and success in the program thus far into college.
Everything about Jordyn Gallant appears to have roots back to her father: her work ethic, her free-spirited attitude and her love for others. Few people have endured a hardship like Jordyn has, but Gallant has situated herself in a realm of even fewer people by the way she handles it. Gallant epitomizes every characteristic of a genuine, kind-hearted individual, and it all comes down to one man. A stone on her windowsill symbolizes why Gallant is so special, and it simply states: “The first man I ever loved, my daddy.