Wilkes community speaks on the loss of a Colonel


Alyssa Mursch, Staff Writer

Last Monday, a wave of confusion, shock and grief overwhelmed the campus when word of the death of a fellow student spread throughout the halls. The reactions of several students show how this tragedy has affected the campus’s tight-knit community.

On the evening of Nov. 10 at about 6:30, sophomore Jonathan Ratchko, of Hazleton, was found unresponsive in Ross Hall.

“Nothing could have prepared me for this,” Ratchko’s RA, Alexis Maroney, posted on twitter the night of the incident. She has declined any further comment on the matter.

Ratchko was a 19-year-old business major. Upon learning of his death, his classmates and friends have spoken out about how they were affected by this loss.

“I felt like I lost a part of me,” says Shelby Petro, friend of Ratchko. “But I feel him everywhere. The thing that makes me OK is that he’s left me with so much.”

Although it is impossible to make sense out of a situation like this, Ratchko’s mark has undoubtedly been left on those closest to him. This became evident as his friends reminisced about the type of person he was.

“He was like my little brother. He would always be there for you in your time of need,” said Ratchko’s roommate, Tyler Dixon, who found him on November 10. “Johnny touched many people’s lives and he will be dearly missed.”

Petro emphasizes the impact he has made on each life that he was a part of. Despite her sadness, she says she was lucky just to have known him. Petro described him as a selfless, giving person who was always there to offer his friends anything from a ride to an empathetic ear.

“What he did in the time that he was here, not what he did academically or in clubs, but what he did to the people that he knew here, that will carry through all of us through the rest of our lives.”

Jen Magnotta, friend of Ratchko, also talks about the impact he had on her life.

“I’m so glad that I got to be a part of Johnny’s life,” said Magnotta, smiling. “I am so truly blessed and thankful that I met him. Nothing could bring him down, and I loved that about him.”

Faculty members associated with Ratchko are also affected by his loss. Eric Wright, professor of pharmacy, who taught Ratchko in FYF during his freshman year, describes him as kind, gentle and caring for others.

Wright specifically remembers one situation when Ratchko’s interest in helping those less fortunate was especially prevalent, as he talked about a class trip to the Wyoming Valley Rescue Mission on Coal Street in Wilkes-Barre.

The students collected food and distributed it here, and Wright recalls Ratchko being one of the most engaged and helpful students of the group. He could really tell by the way he interacted with the community that he genuinely cared about them.

“No matter what hand Johnny was dealt, he made the most of it,” said Ratchko’s childhood friend, Eric Major. “To go through the gauntlet of life always with a laugh and a smile, to me, that’s inspirational.”

Petro and Dixon also expressed immense gratitude to Wilkes University’s faculty and staff for their support and understanding during this difficult time.

There was a memorial service held for Ratchko in Hazleton, PA on Nov. 17 and Wilkes also intends on holding a service on campus, although no details have been released yet.

Grief counselors and group therapy sessions have been set up to help students affected. For more information or to schedule individual counseling, call the Counseling Center in Passan Hall, at 570-408-4730.