- Jesse Budnick
Our beloved Jesse Ben Budnick passed away Saturday, April 25, 2020, after a long, cruel battle with the turmoil of addiction. Though we feared his death for more than a decade, we had hopelessly believed it would never come.
Jesse was born in Burlington, Vt., on November 12, 1989. When the winter was just beginning, we received our warmest gift yet. He grew up in Burlington, but his overabundance of life took him much, much farther. In his brief time with us, he lived in Las Vegas, Nev.; Hollywood, Fla.; New Haven, Conn.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Yiwu, China; San Diego, Calif.; and finally, Los Angeles.
Jesse attended Burlington High School as a youth and Champlain College as an adult, graduating from the latter in 2017. The former of these two was where Jesse, at a very young age, was first introduced to the pharmaceutical drug OxyContin, beginning a tiresome war that he, heartbreakingly, would never see the end of.
Jesse was wildly expressive and creative. He was hilarious beyond words and had an ability to not only amuse any passerby but authentically befriend them, as well. He had a smile that could brighten the night, and by just existing he painted the world colorful for anyone lucky enough to have met him. When Jesse wanted to see you laugh, you would until your belly ached.
Knowing Jesse was constantly rewarding. He was always on the lookout for ways to protect and help those closest to him, whether it was providing whatever assistance he could to tackle some obstacle for you, or just a simple kind gesture.
At 18, Jesse began managing his father’s business, Strawberry Fields, and continued to do so for nearly nine years. The nature of the business allowed Jesse to travel. He saw most of the country, coordinating and managing concessions at major events nationally. It was here that Jesse’s entrepreneurial spirit was groomed, and in 2016, alongside his partner, Lori Luo, he created a rapidly successful festival fashion company named the Lumi Shop.
Jesse was a fiercely driven man in everything he aspired to, from completing his college degree while also employed full time, to his intense work ethic and endless business pursuits, to his relationships with his loved ones. Everything Jesse did was with the utmost diligence and grace.
Yet this never seemed enough to him. When Jesse was doing his best and being his most fulfilled self, still he was madly unsettled within. Jesse spent years in unspeakable darkness, his joy being constantly threatened, constantly eradicated, never safe from the torment of addiction. For this he was hardest on himself; he shunned and shamed himself, thinking he was unworthy because of it, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
Brighter days were upon him in 2015, when Jesse met Lori Luo and his life changed forever. Everything he thought he knew about not deserving to be loved fully by another human being vanished. He felt alive again, every moment he could capture with her by his side counting as a victory. She believed in him immensely, and we could not blame her, for the light in his eyes was undeniable. Unfortunately for us all, his disease was always lurking around the corner, poised in striking stance, ready to attack at any opportunity.
Jesse wasn’t the sum total of his affliction. He was incredibly kind and charismatic; he was courageous. He was remarkably strong. Jesse loved his family. He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, a grandson and a friend. Jesse couldn’t be contained in a box. He was consistently breaking out, reinventing, diversifying. Jesse was the most genuine person you’d ever meet. In an era when socializing became digital, his soul yearned for real human connection. Jesse loved deeply and truly, creating unbreakable bonds between him and the many people he cherished. Jesse was fearless, and imaginative, and determined. He was independent and loyal, caring and giving. He’d offer you the shirt off his back and keep you company if you were alone and cold, even if he didn’t know you at all.
Jesse was alone in his home in LA when the virus struck America, though. The new necessities of sanitization became an obsession for him, and Jesse, in his protective nature, had to ensure the well-being of those he loved. He went to great lengths acquiring a surplus of hand sanitizers, disinfectants and masks that he strategically shipped to his family and friends, just to know they were safe.
This is the person he was. We don’t want Jesse to be remembered for his burdens. We want him remembered for the absolutely brilliant young man he was. Jesse was such a powerful person that we thought him invincible. It is hard to comprehend him being gone, but our pain in losing him will never go away.
Jesse is survived by his mother and stepfather, Diana and Ron Charboneau; his father, Lary Budnick; his sister and brother-in-law, Starr and Sam Ramson; his brother, David Budnick; his partner, Lori Luo; his nephew, Leo Ramson; his grandma and grandpa, Marilyn and Gerard Pettinati; and many, many aunts, uncles and cousins, including the Moores, Marceaus, Shappys, Ryans, Rotellas and Ploofs.
Due to the current pandemic, a celebration of Jesse’s life will be postponed to a later date. Jesse will be honored with a wake at Ready Funeral Home and a Mass at St. Joseph Church in Burlington once the situation is safe for all. Jesse’s family will update friends when a service date is set. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Jesse Ben Budnick Fund, St. Mark Church, 1251 North Ave., Burlington, VT 05408.
The void that Jesse left behind will never be filled. We have faced an unimaginable loss by him leaving us. We will never get to see him smile again, see him flourish again, laugh or cry. He was taken unnaturally too soon. If you yourself are facing the overwhelming task of battling addiction, please know you are not alone. You are special, and you are loved, and you are worth it. And if you perish, you too will leave behind an irreparable wound in those you love most. Please do not bargain with your life. Please talk to someone. There are many resources and we ALL want to see you recover. You will heal if you want it, as well. If you’re still alive, then there is still hope.
Jesse Ben, you were a miracle. More than anything, we had hoped you would find solace in life, but now you are finally free from all the pain of this world. We cannot help but miss you always. May you find everlasting peace. We love you infinitely.