May 11, 2021 by Cathy Stack
“She was truly like a mother to us. She treated us like we were her own kids. She was always looking out for us,” said Andrew Fusaiotti, a Fiji fraternity brother who attended LSU in the 1980s.
Andrew remained close with Jessie over the years. At the start of the pandemic, he called her to check in. She revealed that she was still working two jobs. When he inquired as to why she had not yet retired yet, she admitted that she had long been ready but simply could not afford to.
In 2005, Jesse became a proud homeowner. However, to afford the house, like so many, she decided to take out a 30-year mortgage. She knew this likely meant that she would be working for the rest of her life to pay it off.
When Andrew discovered that his dear friend was prevented from enjoying her long deserved retirement, he was determined to do something about it. He knew that Jessie had a special bond with many of the Fiji brothers, so he had an idea to start a fundraiser. He requested donations of any amount to put toward Jessie’s mortgage. Andrew said it was hard to ask his Fiji brothers for money during a challenging time as the pandemic, but he was motivated to do right by his friend.
Jessie was a hard-working single mother of three when she started working LSU in the 1980s. She was a talented cook, famous for her comfort food. She fondly recalled her time working at the college as it offered her an opportunity to mentor and support the young men during a crucial time in their lives. She offered the boys wide ranging advice from everything from relationships to exam stress. “They’d come in the kitchen and sit on top of the counter and tell me their problems.”
Johnny Joubert, another Fiji member remembers Jessie for her caring nature. “From day one, she had this aura about her that drew everybody to her.”
Together, Andrew and Joubert spent months fundraising and planning the big surprise. Their goal was to have everything ready in time for Jessie’s upcoming 74th birthday. The two men. along with a small group of vaccinated Fiji members traveled to Jessie’s Baton Rouge home for the event.
Jessie’s three children led her outside where the excited crowd sang, “Happy Birthday.” Jessie was overcome with emotion as tears streamed down her face. She was presented with a birthday card signed by all the 91 brothers who donated.
Jessie took a seat as Andrew shared a few touching words.
“We’re here to thank you, because we love you, respect you, and we know what you’ve been through to get this house and put food on your table,” shared Andrew.
The group then played a game of “Let’s Make a Deal,” as a fun way to reveal her gifts. Behind the first door was personalized “Jessie Hamilton Day” clothing and a catered lunch. The second door unveiled two enormous checks. One for $6,675 which she could spend however she pleased. The other was for $45,000 to pay off her mortgage.
“If I hadn’t been sitting, I would have fell down. I was hollering and crying,” Jessie recalled of the emotional moment. It proved to be an equally joyous experience for the fraternity brothers, now adult men, for being able to repay their ‘beloved second mother’ whom they credit as a great role model.
“Success is about setting a good example, doing things for others and bringing people closer together. Jessie does all of those things for her family, friends, community and co-workers.”
“You were already successful before we showed up today,” said Andrew, as he hugged Jessie.
Jessie has given notice to her jobs and plans to sit back now and enjoy life. Once it is safe to travel, she is going to take a family vacation. She said she also plans to visit her friends, the Fiji brothers more often. “They were my kids. They still are,” Jessie said.
PassItOn and The Foundation For A Better Life believes Andrew Fusaiotti and his fraternity brothers are heroes. Their caring action toward their dear friend is a great example of the value of friendship. Help us honor them by sharing their heartwarming story.
Watch video here: https://youtu.be/lsY1DtOuows
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