Jordan Power | The Duquesne DukeEven in death, Jarrett Eleam helped to save lives.
The 2007 Duquesne alumnus and Pittsburgh native died Jan. 12 after a training exercise for his volunteer fire department outside of Buffalo, N.Y.
His organs, however, will live on in people across the country who already have received his organs through donation, according to Misty Enos, associate director of community outreach for Center for Organ Recovery and Education.
Eleam's heart, liver, kidneys and lungs were donated, according to his mother, Jacqueline Eleam, 57, of Millvale. She said that the 26-year-old spent his life trying to help others.
"He gave us himself when he didn't really have anything to give," she said. "The day he got his license, he let them know he's going to be an organ donor."
Eleam graduated from Duquesne in 2007 with a degree in business administration. Patrick Deegan, a professor of law and technology in the business school who taught Eleam business law in 2004, said Eleam "always seemed to be engaged" in his studies.
"To me, he was the good Duquesne student," Deegan said. "I can never remember anything bad [about him], and I always remember him having that extra little question after class."
Deegan also worked with Eleam while he was president of Delta Sigma Pi, a campus business fraternity. He said Eleam was very active with DSP on the national level, organizing trips for students to go to national conventions and attending the conventions even after he graduated.
"From Delta Sigma Pi's perspective, this wasn't just a Duquesne loss, this was a loss nationally," Deegan said.
Eleam also constantly volunteered at Duquesne in other ways, his mother said. He worked with homeless people and volunteered at multi-cultural events. She said she couldn't keep up with all the volunteer projects her son was involved in.
"I never wrote them all down, but he was just an interesting kid because he was always trying to help," she said.
After graduation, Jarrett moved to Buffalo in 2008, where he took a job at Target. He was laid off in 2009 and joined Big Tree Volunteer Fire Department that November.
Jacqueline Eleam said she was nervous about her son's volunteer work as a firefighter.
"I really didn't want him to go up [to Buffalo], but I didn't want to stop him from pursuing anything in his life," she said.
Daniel Bozek, president of Big Tree fire department, described Jarrett as helpful and hard-working. According to Bozek, it normally takes a volunteer between three and four months to complete the "boot-camp" style training required to be a firefighter. Eleam completed it in two weeks.
"He wanted to be a firefighter so badly," Bozek said.
He also signed up to begin training this year as an emergency medical technician.
Eleam was one of the top-10 firefighters who responded to calls during his time at Big Tree, Bozek said. He added that Jarrett's work ethic was "aggressive" considering he was "going back and forth to see his family all the time."
Bozek said Eleam would be remembered for his friendliness and positivity.
"If you know Jarrett for five minutes, or maybe even less, he'd be your best friend," he said. "It was easy to like him, and he would like you right back. I never heard him say anything bad about anything."
Jacqueline Eleam said her son was like a big brother to all of his 11 siblings, regardless of their age. She thought her son's decision to become a firefighter exemplified his outlook on life. Instead of being discouraged by a layoff, he decided to work for a greater good.
She wasn't surprised.
"He always found some kind of way to make things that weren't good, to make them better," she said. "Instead of having a negative aspect in life, he tried to go somewhere that needed him."