Jacob Cassell
Jacob Cassell

Obituary of Jacob Brian Cassell

Jacob Brian Cassell (aka, “Jake”) was born with autism and a number of special needs which attempted to limit and define him, but instead, he overcame them all. He lived his life spreading endless amounts of joy, love and affection to everyone who had the privilege of meeting him. Jake taught us to love greater, to be kind and considerate to everyone and to look at this world with wide eyes full of wonder and excitement. He became a role model for other kids within the Bethesda special needs community in dancing, theatre, bocci ball, softball and other endeavors and those with special needs in Rockbridge County, VA he served for the past three summers. Jake’s happiness was infectious and he spread cheer everywhere he went, especially on the sidelines of Churchill High School. But what defined Jake Cassell was his love for his savior, Jesus Christ, and his passion for worship and service. Jake reflected the face of Jesus in all that he did and wore that warmth, love and affection on his sleeve. He truly was an angel in our midst. Jake was born at Sibley Hospital six weeks early on October 10th, 2001. When the family received the diagnosis of Autism, from that moment, they dedicated themselves to doing everything possible to help Jake life a healthy, rewarding life. Despite his special needs, Jake exhibited an unusual joy and happiness from an early age. He was enormously sweet and empathic, an attribute that became a defining characteristic as he continued to develop. The challenges in the early years were significant and the therapy exhaustive. Jake was joined by younger brother Owen in November 2003 and the family moved back to the DC area and settled in the Wyngate neighborhood of Bethesda, MD in the fall of 2004. Due to his special needs, Jake was placed at Burning Tree Elementary where he learned under several wonderful teachers who remain dear friends to our family. By 3rd grade, it was apparent that Jake needed a smaller, more controlled and focused environment for kids with his particular set of challenges. He was enrolled at The Diener School, which had been founded just one year prior. Jake attended Diener for four years, during which time he exhibited incredible growth in social skills, language, confidence and intellectual capacity. It was during those years Jake began to show his great potential and inspire confidence in his family that he could overcome his significant challenges and pursue a high school degree and the possibility of independent adult life. Jake returned to public school at Cabin John Middle School in 7th Grade. He adored Cabin John and talked constantly about the wonderful new facility (especially it’s fire alarm system). Jake participated in Cross Country as well as the theatrical production of Annie, Jr., in which he was delighted to have a speaking role. Jake moved on to Churchill High School which he attended the last two years, participating in the Autism inclusion program which enabled him to attend both small focused classes and mainstream classes. He was committed to his academics and made the honor roll multiple times during his two years at Churchill. Beyond academics, Jake served as the mascot for Churchill, donning the Bulldog costume and bringing his bountiful enthusiasm to virtually every school sport. Beyond his seemingly endless school spirit, Jake loved supporting all of his friends on the various teams and being part of the Churchill community. Last year, he was thrilled when he was able to make rounds with the Lacrosse team to some of the local elementary schools, as the Bulldog, to spread fun and love to the younger kids, who received him quite enthusiastically. He simply loved making others happy. Jake began Cub Scouts as a 2nd Grader with Pack 817 at Burning Tree and became a Boy Scout member of Troop 233 in 6th Grade. Boy Scouts gave Jake a perfect venue to push him to grow in ways that neither school nor typical extracurricular activities could. From the planning, dexterity and effort required for the many campouts to the task-oriented nature of the rank and merit badge system, Boy Scouts gave Jake a set of goals to consistently pursue, and a means by which he could feel a great sense of accomplishment when those milestones were met. During Jake’s six years with the Scouts, he advanced to the rank of Life, just one rank shy of Eagle Scout, and had completed all of his requirements for Eagle with the exception of his Eagle Project, which was planned for early September. Jake was a regular attendee of The Rock Youth Ministry at the Montgomery County Campus of McLean Bible Church. Jake loved The Rock, his friends and the adult leaders of the program, especially youth pastor Drew Martinez. We watched Jake grow in faith and spiritual maturity over the last few years and Jake’s love for God and enthusiasm for worship defined him as a young man. During these last two summers, Jake attended the two-week Summer’s Best Two Weeks outdoor Christian camp for teens on the Quemahoning Reservoir near Somerset, PA, which he absolutely loved. Jake had a huge heart for serving others, which manifested itself in two mission trips in 2019, the first to Honduras with his mother and grandmother in support of their non-profit, Project Honduran Child and the second in July in the Dominican Republic with McLean Bible Church. Jake spent a week in Honduras in January, obtaining and preparing backpacks full of school supplies and distributing those and school uniforms to over 140 kids in 5 mountain villages so that they could attend school. While in the Dominican Republic, Jake helped lead a Vacation Bible School for young kids, worship and sharing the Gospel with many. It was in the DR where Jake gave the first public testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ. Anyone who knew Jake would hear quickly about his love for planes, trains, public transportation and roller coasters. Jake’s favorite activities were riding the Metro, most recently with many all-day excursions by bus and rail across the DMV. Jake spoke often of his desire to be a flight attendant or an Amtrak train conductor. Jake’s zeal for roller coasters was endless and he was determined to be one of the world’s experts in roller coaster design. He could tell you the number of loops, inversions, height and speed of all of his favorite coasters at Hershey Park, Six Flags, Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens. Given the risk-aversion and inner-ear imbalance that defined his childhood, it simply amazed us that Jake became so passionately committed to riding the most extreme rides. During recent years, if you asked Jake what he wanted to do as a career, he would say, “I am going to be a Roller Coaster enthusiast”. Jacob Brian Cassell (17) of Bethesda, MD was tragically struck by a vehicle after falling off his bicycle on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, MD on Wednesday, July 31st. He died from his injuries the next morning. Jake is survived by his mother, Jennifer Fredricksen Cassell, his father Steven Craig Cassell and his Brother, Owen William Cassell. We were blessed beyond measure through the presence of Jacob Brian Cassell and will cherish the memory of this truly beautiful human being. A Celebration of Life for Jake will be held on August 9, 2019 from 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm at the Churchill High School Auditorium at 11300 Gainsborough Road in Potomac, Maryland. A Celebration of Life for Jake will be held on August 9, 2019 from 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm at the Churchill High School Auditorium at 11300 Gainsborough Road in Potomac, Maryland. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in honor of Jake to The Diener School (https://thedienerschool.org/Donate-Jake/).
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