A lesson of love, a life of grace
Jussila’s impact on Mustang and beyond without measure
By Traci Chapman
It can seem the impact we have is like a pond’s ripples when a stone is skipped across it – how many ripples will our lives represent, how much good can we do over a lifetime, do we leave this earth and the people we know and love better than we found them?
That’s something each of us learn when the time comes, I suppose, and I don’t have an answer for myself, even after 60 years. But I do know for certain the person I’ve encountered in this life who had the purest soul, who lived the most for others and whose influence isn’t measured in ripples but rather a tidal wave.
His name was Dustin Jussila; that tidal wave was made of love and joy, care and talent. His was a life that far too short but a life that seemed to shine – because of who he was. Dustin was a man who it seems positively impacted just about everyone he knew. He was a husband, a son and brother, a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a musician. He was a remarkable person who lived a life full of a joy uncommon in my experience.
Dustin was an educator who transcended teaching and it was through this that in 2011 our own Dustin story began. Our son Travis had begun band at Mustang Middle School – while he enjoyed it to a point, circumstances surrounding the class were frustrating for him, and he wasn’t sure he really wanted to continue long term. That all changed when a new teacher took over during his 8th grade year.
That change was Dustin Jussila. Little did we know just how much this one person would impact Travis and our family – an impact that would be true for student after student in his too short career.
Like so many others we would forever know Dustin as “Juice.”
Travis that year began to blossom – he loved Juice and he loved band, he gained confidence in his musical abilities and began to see, even at that early point, that band could be something more. Juice believed in Trav, he mentored him, he pushed him, he laughed with him and most of all he saw him.
In the process, he changed his life. As Trav continued through Mustang schools, he found more amazing mentors – Ryan Edgmon chief among them – but it was Juice who started it all, who showed Trav so early on how much of an impact a teacher could have, who passed on a love for music, for life and for a band family.
Those were lessons that stuck; as Trav excelled in band, as he graduated from college with a music education degree and just weeks ago was hired as a band director himself, thoughts of Juice were utmost in our minds – because we knew that without him it was likely Trav never would have found the path he was destined to follow.
As a parent, what Juice, Edgmon and the experience they gave Travis was a gift beyond measure. But that wasn’t all – because they also gave me, someone with absolutely no musical ability or experience with something like band, the gift of falling in love with it too. Through the years, covering marching band has been the highlight of an amazing job – and through those years, with every contest, there was Juice, who, every time, every single time, would say hello and share of himself.
Those conversations – about Travis, about Dustin’s life and his love for his then bride-to-be Julian, students, our family – were an illustration of the man Juice was, and it was those talks and in watching Juice interact with new groups of students how obvious it was that what he did for Trav didn’t happen in a vacuum. The students almost universally loved him and he made a difference for many, perhaps most, possibly all of them in one way or the other.
But it was for those who lost their confidence – or perhaps had not yet gained it – that Dustin seemed to have a special gift. He was a source of strength and humor, filled with an unwavering belief in what they could do if they pushed themselves. To say Juice helped students continue band when perhaps they might have given it up is an understatement – he changed lives and gave them a purpose, in the process helping them achieve something bigger than themselves and discover so much more.
Of course, band was just one part of Dustin’s life, but it seems clear it was a perfect encapsulation of everything he was as a person. Juice approached it with love – and thinking of him, that’s the word I seem to keep coming back to.
Juice loved life, he loved his family, his friends and his students, he loved to give of himself and he showed just how much love can change others. It’s a lesson we seem to need now more than ever, and how I wish he were here today to continue teaching each of us what a life lived like that every single day looks like. That’s a wish that can’t come true, but a goal that can be realized is for each of us to be just a little more like Juice than we were before, to live with love and grace and to pass that on to those around us.
This essay is beautiful and perfect. Thank you!!!