Submitted by Jesse’s sister, Jordan Palker

What Jesse was like

Jesse at brother Daniel’s graduation

Jesse was my oldest brother — the oldest of nine siblings. He was a very unique man with lots of hobbies and talents. He was an artist, a joker, a licensed nursing assistant (LNA). He liked to skateboard, snowboard, cook. He loved turtles and pandas. He was a very loving human.

And he always made people laugh. In general, when he was around, you were always laughing.

Most vivid memories of Jesse

Our family is very close. We had a lot of good times growing up on family vacations: camping at Apple Tree Bay; trips to North Carolina, Florida and Disney World.

Something that really captures him — have you ever seen the movie Tommy Boy? There’s a scene where Chris Farley puts on a coat that’s too small for him, and he sings, “Fat guy in a little coat.”

One time Jesse went to Big Lots (he had an obsession with Big Lots and would go with my mom frequently), and he sat in the smallest chair he could find and sang, “Fat guy in a little chair.” My sister took a video of it, so it’s something we look at often and have a good laugh. He had a weird sense of humor.

What Jesse was proud of

Starting his own T-shirt company, called Despair Designs. Mostly family and friends bought from him, but he got into a couple shops. And becoming an LNA and working at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

My mom actually just heard a story about Jesse from a family friend who attended a wedding. The groom was a young man who had experienced a near fatal car accident a few years prior. His mother happened to tell our family friend about a young LNA named Jesse Palker and how he had been an angel sent to her son as he hung on to life in the ICU.

The mother went on to say that her son remembers Jesse’s constant words of support through that very critical time to fight hard and to not give up. He has since recovered and was able to walk down the aisle to begin a new chapter in his life.

How drugs became part of Jesse’s life

Jesse on a surfboard at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure in Florida

Jesse was in a car accident in 2005, the night before I graduated from eighth grade. He was in the intensive-care unit for two months and almost died several times.

After the accident, he had chronic pain. One of his doctors prescribed opiates. When the opioid crisis became a big issue in Vermont, doctors stopped prescribing to him and he started using off the street.

How opioid-use disorder changed his relationship with his family

Jesse became very angry and avoided our family a lot. He stole from us. He became very distant at times. He went to rehab several times in Vermont and Florida. He went to the Turning Point Center in Burlington — I want to say on and off for about 10 years? He really tried to get past his addiction, but it was a very hard fight for him. He was doing really well before he passed away.

The last moment I shared with Jesse

Jesse’s last birthday, which we celebrated with him

One of the last moments I remember is captured in the picture from our younger brother’s graduation from Castleton University (at the top of the page). Jesse put on his cap and gown and posed for photos. He was a clown.

How Jesse died

I got a call from one of my sister’s coworkers. Jesse had been staying with his girlfriend and had overdosed. Someone called my sister’s work, but she wasn’t there, so they called me. I was the first one in our family to know he had been found unresponsive from an accidental overdose. I got a hold of my parents, and everyone rushed to the hospital. He passed away the next day.

If Jesse were still here, I would tell him

How much I love him and I miss him. I wish he could have been there for my wedding.

How we responded to Jesse’s death

After my brother passed, our family got in touch with his friend, Phil LaCroix, who expressed that he and his wife had lost a lot of friends to addiction. He wanted to do something about it, and we did, too.

We started Enough Is Enough VT and began raising money for the Vermont Foundation of Recovery and the Vermont Recovery Network. To raise money and awareness, Phil ran the Long Trail in 10 days.

We’re premiering a documentary about his run, No Easy Mile, at ArtsRiot in Burlington on October 2 — it’s a fundraiser for Enough Is Enough VT. So far, we’ve raised over $26,000.