Jesse H. Elkins, 17, Franklin High senior, snowboarder, rock climber


Jesse H. Elkins, a Franklin High School senior and avid skateboarder and rock climber, died Saturday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after being injured in an automobile accident Friday evening in northern Baltimore County. The Reisterstown resident was 17.

The accident occurred on Tufton Avenue in Glyndon, when the Jeep Cherokee that the teenager was driving left the road and struck a fence, his family said.

Two passengers in the vehicle were uninjured, and the cause of the accident remains under investigation, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department said yesterday.

Mr. Elkins was born in Baltimore and raised in Reisterstown. He was a graduate of Franklin Middle School and was to have graduated this month from Franklin High School.

"He was a Franklin boy from the get-go, and most of the student body knew Jesse," said Franklin High Principal Dean P. Terry. "This is a real tough time for us right now, and we have trained instructors here helping the students work through their grief. He was a good kid, and what happened just rips your heart out."

"He was well-liked and had a strong friendship base at Franklin," said Jeremy M. Goldman, a school counselor.

"Jesse was always ready for class, a positive force and a great participator," said Jen Seda, who was his 11th-grade English teacher and recalled his deep appreciation for the short story. "He always made great comments and for a 16-year-old had great analytical abilities and insight."

Mr. Elkins' maternal grandfather, Leonard J. Kerpelman of Mount Washington, said: "He had all kinds of plans and ability. He was an excellent boy who had a heart of gold. He was intelligent and sensitive, and anything he took up, he did well."

"Jesse means `gift from God,' and he was a wonderful gift from God," said his mother, Antonia Elkins Fowler.

An independent spirit throughout his life, Mr. Elkins was 11 when he began to learn how to skateboard and then took up snowboarding in the winter months.

When he became overweight in his early teens, he put himself on a carefully monitored diet and trimmed down.

He recently took up rock climbing, and turned to his mother when he needed a partner.

"I'd go with him to the Earth Treks' Climbing Center in Timonium, and he didn't mind introducing me as his partner," she said. "He wanted to go every day so after I came home from work, no matter how tired I was, we'd go climbing. It was phenomenal how he included me in his life."

Mr. Elkins had been accepted by and planned to attend West Virginia University to study writing.

"He was really enthusiastic about attending West Virginia University, and I remember how thrilled he was when he went and interviewed and saw their huge climbing wall," Mrs. Fowler said. "He was so looking forward to going to college."

When she suggested that her son learn ballroom dancing, he initially balked - but then began taking lessons with his best friend at the Towson Dance Academy and became accomplished at the waltz.

"I told him that guys who dance always get all the girls, and that's when he agreed to take dancing lessons," Mrs. Fowler said. "He was a natural dancer."

He also enjoyed drawing and played the guitar and piano.

"He was a fan of classic rock and his favorite was Paul McCartney and the Beatles," Mrs. Fowler said. "Last summer, he talked me into getting tickets to see McCartney at the MCI Center in Washington. "He was a great debater and could convince me of anything."

Last year, when he applied for his driver's license, "he wanted to check the organ donor box," his mother said.

"I needed to have something of him still on this earth, and the doctors at Shock Trauma were able to donate his kidneys, liver, pancreas, heart valves and eyes," Mrs. Fowler said.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

Also surviving are his stepfather, Robert H. Fowler; a brother, Joshua M. Fowler of Reisterstown; and his maternal grandmother, Elinor H. Kerpelman.

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