Jonathan Scharfenberger remembered for his extraordinary accomplishments

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

Young Warwick man described as a beacon for others to follow, By Roger Gavan Warwick — He was only 22 years old but thousands of people throughout the nation and the world mourn the recent and untimely death of Jonathan Daniel Scharfenberger, the son of Dr. Dennis and Anna Scharfenberger of Warwick. On Saturday, October 22, approximately 20 priests and deacons, including the chief celebrant, Jonathan’s uncle Monsignor Edward Scharfenberger, assembled on the altar at St. Stephen’s R.C. Church for a concelebration of the Mass of Christian Burial. Scharfenberger had passed away Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Medical Center of Central Georgia as a result of injuries sustained in a tragic automobile accident. The church was filled that sad day with those who knew him well, including members of his family and their friends, priests and religious, and teachers and classmates from his elementary school, St. Stephen’s - St. Edward’s. There were also those from Don Bosco Preparatory School in Ramsey, N.J., and Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., where he recently received his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy. But there were tens of thousands who didn’t know him personally but nevertheless, mourned his passing. They were people of many different faiths who had flooded the Internet with prayer requests as doctors fought to save his life. Students for Life of America Scharfenberger served as the Pregnant on Campus Coordinator and Campus Support Coordinator for Students for Life of America (SFLA), a national pro-life organization, headquartered in Arlington, Va. Students for Life strives to end abortion by educating students about issues, identifying pro-life student leaders and equipping them with training, skills and resources. His job included visiting colleges and providing materials to more than 600 campus pro-life groups across the nation. At approximately 8 p.m. on Oct. 8, Jonathan Scharfenberger and SFLA field director Kortney Blythe Gordon were returning from a Students for Life of America Georgia conference when Gordon’s vehicle was struck by another car head on in a massive collision. The 57-year-old driver of the other vehicle was reportedly traveling at 75 mph and passing cars on a two-lane road. Gordon, who was pregnant, was immediately killed. Scharfenberger, who was in the passenger seat, was still conscious and managed to crawl from the vehicle. Two local students seated in the rear, whose names were not released to the media, suffered serious injuries but survived the accident. The driver of the other vehicle was killed. The story of the accident, condolences and requests for prayers soon appeared on the Websites of major pro-life advocacy organizations including National Right to Life, Operation Rescue and Focus on the Family as well as individual blogs and also Facebook. National Right to Life Committee Although Scharfenberger had only worked for Students for Life of America a short time, he had many successes including establishing a pro-life campus group at Florida International University. As an undergraduate he had served as president of Ave Maria University Students for Life where he led pro-life initiatives, including one involving Planned Parenthood that gained widespread media coverage. He had also worked for the National Right to Life Committee. And in 2010, he interned on Capitol Hill for Senator Sam Brownback, who is now governor of Kansas. “He was part of a generation of builders, young people acting as beacons to their fellows,” wrote Kathryn Lopez for National Review Online. “Not just walking the walk, but walking with their brothers and sisters, many of whom are often lost without solid examples of successful marriages in their lives to make them feel capable of the same.” Lopez also interviewed Scharfenberger’s college roommate, Charles Atkinson, who explained that Scharfenberger wanted to “change the culture.” 'Stay the course’ Meanwhile, his aunt Mirium Muse, who lives in Warwick, described the young man this way: “Jon was one of the most selfless people I know. He deflected everything away from him and directed it to the cause, his family and friends, and of course, his faith. “Those who knew him,” she added, “appreciated his wry sense of humor and his smile. He had a wonderful capacity for accepting people as they were, while gently nudging them to stay the course and strive for their best. His signature statement at conferences was, 'You don’t ever know if you’re going to get there. But you gotta keep following the course. You gotta have faith. You gotta have faith that sometimes is blind and you just keep holding on and you keep moving forward.’” On Facebook, his friend Andrew Blair from their days in Washington, D.C., wrote: “Jon’s heartfelt concern for unborn children and mothers in need was truly inspiring... Often young people feel they are not old enough or experienced enough to have much of an impact. Our time on earth is so limited. We can’t miss one moment to stand up for the value of human life while we’re here. Jon never did.”