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Southport Teen Killed In Block Island Crash Remembered As 'Rising Star' With 'Perpetual Smile'

Jake Panus
Jake Panus Photo Credit: Spear Miller Funeral Home

Friends and family of a 16-year-old student-athlete in Fairfield County remembered him fondly following his death in a crash on Block Island earlier this week.

Southport resident Jackson (Jake) Panus died on Sunday, Aug. 9, when his allegedly intoxicated driver was involved in a fatal crash in Rhode Island.

Panus’ family said that “people often commented that he resembled an angel.”

“He was both an old soul and, equally, an über-social being, whose quest to be among and surrounded by many was endless,” according to his obituary. “He was the life of any gathering, whether in the classroom, on the athletic field, or at the beach. Jake simply made anywhere he was better, brighter, more fun, and happier.”

The teen was described as a “rising star with a gravitational pull stronger than Jupiter.”

“(Jake) was empathetic and caring, capable of understanding and relating to others’ joys and pains, trials, and tribulations, and always there to help or listen with an optimistic ear

for those who needed it the most,” they said. “He was entrepreneurial, driven, motivated, and possessed an uncanny ability to make people smile and laugh.”

Before his death, Panus was a member of the Fairfield Ludlowe High School football and lacrosse teams, a proud member of the Southport Congregational Church Youth Group, a counselor-in-training at the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club, and a volunteer at the annual Pequot Library book sale.

His family said he sought to follow in his father’s footsteps and aspired to attend the University of South Carolina when he graduated.

Panus is survived by his parents, Kellie and Stephen, his younger brother Liam, 11, of Southport; his grandmothers, Carol Whitmyer (Marco Island, FL) and Joan Panus (Melbourne Beach, FL); his uncles, Michael Whitmyer (Byfield, MA) and Mark Panus (Mendham, NJ); an aunt, Sarah Panus (Boca Raton, FL); cousins, Matthew and Michelle Fanelli and Jamie-Leigh and Max Whitmyer, as well as many other cousins and dear friends and classmates.

A memorial scholarship fund will be created in Jake’s name to provide post-secondary education financial assistance to the children from Red Shirt Table on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. 

To donate on can send a check, made out to the “Southport Congregational Church” ref: The Jake Panus Scholarship Fund. C/O Southport Congregational Church, PO Box 366, Southport, CT 06890. For online donations visit the website or call (203) 255-1594.

There will be an invitation-only Celebration of Life service held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15 at the Southport Congregational Church due to COVID-19. 

A live stream video of the 2 p.m service will be available online here. At 3:30 p.m., the family will greet the community on the lawn of the Pequot Library in Southport. Masks are mandatory and social distancing is requested.

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