Mourning and Celebrating One of Our Own
Recently the Mormon feminist community has been devastated by the loss of one of our own – Jenny Marshall Latu. It has also been a personal loss for me as Jenny was my dear friend. The news of her passing was so shocking for me, especially because she and I were messaging the night before she died, giggling about something we both thought was silly. Jenny was just 36-years-old and left behind a husband and six children, whom she loved and adored with fierce abandon.
Jenny was the kind of friend who quietly, and behind the scenes, offered comfort and support to whomever needed it. She helped those who needed helping, even when she herself was suffering with several of her chronic health problems. I’ve heard countless stories in the days since her passing about her generosity, her compassion, her selflessness, and how she loved people with her whole heart. Jenny also loved books and together we would give each other recommendations and discuss books we loved. She did this with all of her friends who are voracious readers like she was.
Jenny leaves a legacy of courage, as she faced many health conditions. A legacy of the enormity of love she had for her children. And a legacy of kindness she showed not only to her wide network of friends, but anyone who was in need of kindness and a friendly smile. Our Mormon feminist community will not be the same without her tireless activism for those on the margins. My world will never be the same. “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” –Wicked
Here are a few memories or thoughts about Jenny from a few of her friends:
” My very favorite thing about Jenny was her ability to handle the hard stuff with humor. She was always there with a supportive word, and a fantastic meme, exactly when I needed a digital hug. Jenny took time to care for the people she loved. She was a fierce advocate for her friends, both online and in real life. I will always be grateful for the light she shared in the dark corners of my own pain, and the times she let me share light and space with her when she was facing pain too. ” –Aubri Martin-Parmenter
“I feel like the space Jenny has left in the Mormon feminist community, will always be a void and will never be filled. Jenny was so incredibly loving , and generous with her time and resources without question. Jenny was really funny and intelligent. Jenny made me smile and laugh. Jenny was strong and resilient. Jenny loved every single one of her kids SO MUCH. She talked about her kids all the time and how much she loved them. Jenny’s kids were her world. I really believe Jenny is watching down on her children. Jenny made this world an infinitely better place, and it feels very cruel and dark without her today.” –Adrienne Aldridge
“Jenny was just always there for me, and everyone else. Always checking in, always offering her heart, her kind words, understanding, advice, and so much love. The world seems tangibly darker without her here. My first memory of Jenny was meeting her at a MoFem get together at a park. She had [her baby]** in a sling on her hip and she was glowing. She loved being around her people and she loved being a mother. I remember once she found a really cool Star Wars shirt with Rey on it at Target and she made sure to pick one up for me as well. We bonded over our similar chronic illnesses, and she was always checking up on me. I also have POTS and fibromyalgia and she was so kind and patient in answering about a billion questions I asked her about EDS. She will be missed by me and so many others. She was so important to so many people and her impact will not be forgotten.” — Jelli Black
“I can’t believe Jenny is gone…she advocated for the people in her sphere in the way she and they needed. First advocating for a blessing for her baby from women she loved and trusted. She was brave and vulnerable suffering from postpartum depression and asking and receiving help from that same group of women. Letting us into her home to clean and deliver dinner for her family. She would check on me if my social media communications seemed to be too dark and discouraged, because of chronic illness, asking if there was anything she could do to help or just to commiserate. She helped start a group support for [Mormon feminists] navigating chronic health and disabilities and framed it like we all had super powers instead just having mortal coils that were frustrating. My breath catches when I remember she’s gone and have to fight back crying. She was the best and most kind of beings.” –Dovie Peterson
“Jenny and I had several Facebook messages, but I couldn’t remember what exactly they were all about, so I went back through them. I had totally forgotten she had helped me find a new dentist that worked with anxiety. They didn’t end up taking my insurance, but she really went out of her way to help me. I loved her. She was good people.” –Miriam Birch
“In some ways it feels like I have known Jenny forever, although our friendship was in the virtual world. From the beginning I was struck by Jenny’s thoughtful and kind responses to the questions people asked. Jenny was open, sweet and loving. She loved her family fiercely and proudly. I was impressed by her determination and commitment to do what was right for her. The world is a less bright without her in it. But the sky has gained a new star to watch over those that Jenny loved. I will miss her. ” -Anonymous
“Jenny shaped my mind for learning, and it changed my life trajectory exponentially. She showed me how to dig deep, to really think and feel. I will forever hold gratitude in my heart to her for that. Jenny was real, she let me see into her thoughts, joy, pain, trauma, mental illness, physical illness, deep love, acceptance. She destigmatized postpartum depression, introducing me to a support group of women that I will forever hold dear in my heart. We cried together, laughed together, healed together. I will miss you Jenny. ” –Heather Kester
“I never met Jenny or even communicated directly with her online, but I recognized her name from the many online groups where I read her comments or other forms of writing. I always looked forward to reading Jenny’s words because of her thoughtful insights, clarity, kindness, and boldness. Jenny stood up for the marginalized, was willing to learn and take feedback, and modeled continual growth. I appreciate and will miss the significant emotional labor that went into her online presence, and I can only imagine the hole left for those who knew her more closely than I did. Her impact has truly been felt across the world.” –Anonymous
“I was online friends with Jenny for years. Then I moved to Utah and was able to meet her in person. I got to come to her home for a play date. I brought a fast food lunch and a frosted coffee. The kids played Hello Neighbor, then we sat outside for a few hours chatting about the complexities of life. We also met at a reservoir beach that summer, and I was so impressed with how respectful and mature her older kids were. I’m so glad to have known Jenny, and to be included among the lives that she touched.” –Mallory Thalman
“I have many memories of Jenny but most specifically when I think of her, I think of her big heart and her compassion. She was such a great friend. She was always quick to check in and to have my back. She lived what she believed and was always looking out for her friends. She always had my back and would speak up on behalf of marginalized people. She was so kind and had a great sense of humor. I really cherished our interactions and the times she reached out to me personally. I am saddened and shocked by this loss. ” –Christine M.
“Jenny was kind, thoughtful, inclusive, and generous. She was a sounding board and source of comfort for me as I went through difficult life changes. She went out of her way to help and to bring fun to others, including me. I admired her knowledge, her diligence, and her strength. She is dearly missed. ” –Aly Brown
“I first met Jenny in Feminist Mormon Housewives. She was so helpful and friendly as I navigated my feelings on things going on in the church. She was quick to answer my questions, and make a joke or a book recommendation. We were in a few private groups together as well, and her sense of humor put me over the edge. When I had my son, she was constantly checking on me, commenting on every picture, asking how I was doing, not just how he was doing, but how I was feeling mentally and physically. No one else asked those questions. She invited me to join “MoFem’s with special powers”, a [Facebook] group for MoFem’s with different disability and diseases. Her recommendations proved invaluable, and her love for everyone overflowed. We would often joke about how she was a slytheren, yet so nice. Even though we never met in person, I felt connected to her. Because Jenny could make everyone feel special. She could make everyone feel like they were the center of the universe. When my youngest daughter was born and was in the NICU, Jenny was one of my loudest cheerleaders. She was, quite simply, the best. Her ability to love was bigger than her heart, and she loved her babies with the fire of a thousand suns. I will miss her warmth and friendship. I will miss how she made me laugh, how she made me think, and question what I thought I knew. I will miss her.” -Teresa Peschke
“Jenny was my friend through various Mormon feminist groups and Ehlers-Danlos groups. She always made me feel special, even though we never met in real life. She reached out to me personally on several occasions, and just made me feel heard and seen. She seemed to have a gift for reaching people individually and making them feel loved. She was confident and knowledgeable, but never talked down to people—always drew people in. She will be (and already is) missed, even by me, who never was blessed to meet her in person. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to interact with her during her way-too-brief life.” -Margret Tonks
“The first time I met Jenny (in person) I felt an instant connection to her. She was just one of those people who make you feel like you’ve been life-long friends. We moderated a Facebook group together and I respected how much she was committed to making it a safe space for those from marginalized groups. Through our conversations we got to be even closer and better friends. She made me laugh and she was so, so smart. We kept trying to get together recently, but it was hard since we lived about 70 miles apart. I kept putting it off thinking I would finish grad school in a couple semesters and then have a social life. I regret that now, but no one ever expects their friend to die unexpectedly. Jenny was effervescent and unapologetically herself. She makes me want to be a kinder, more patient person. She was a devoted mother and everyone who knew her knew her children were her life. I know Jenny lived with considerable physical pain and limitations, and I hope she is free of that pain now (even though we’d all rather have her here). And I hope wherever she is on the rainbow bridge, she is holding the hand of her son she lost and they are dancing and singing into eternity. I love you, Jenny. Always.” –Marisa McPeck-Stringham
**To protect her family’s privacy, some personal details have been omitted.