On a Sunday afternoon, February 26th, 2023, Jennifer quietly left this world behind for her next big adventure. Although not an early riser by nature, Jennifer Sermon Herrick arrived early in the morning on January 5th, 1976 to her loving parents Elizabeth Sermon Herrick and John Darsie Herrick in White Pine, Ontonagon County in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Edmund Fitzgerald sunk during a fateful storm on nearby Lake Superior two months before Jen was born, perhaps a metaphor for the many storms Jennifer endured with her health.
Jen spent her early childhood in Illinois and northern Minnesota. In 1984, the Herrick family relocated to North Ogden, Utah, where John worked as an engineer at Thiokol and Liz taught mathematics at Westminster College. Jennifer attended Weber High (class of 1994) and while at the top of her class excelled at French, music (viola and chorus), and of course, mathematics. After graduation, Jen put her proficiency in the French language to good use during a European adventure with her fellow Weber Warriors Joann Davis (Larsen) and Lori Crezee (Pitcher) with whom she shared going to movies and dances (and who got Jen into hot water on occasion by getting her to sneak out with the family car).
After High School, Jen pursued a degree in Applied Mathematics at Weber State where she played viola in the student orchestra. During this time and much too soon, Jennifer lost her beloved father John in 1998. Jen’s relationship with her mother Liz became one of mutual support and respect resulting in an enduring and close mother-daughter friendship. Jennifer was an accomplished violist, playing with the Washington Heights and the New American Philharmonic orchestras and most recently, the Skyward Symphony. Jen, always looking to improve and learn, graduated with a Masters in Statistics graduate degree from Utah State University in 2001.
After receiving her Masters, Jen began a longtime career as an expert statistician and statistical programmer, first with the Utah Birth Defects Network. In 2004, she began working for Dr. Martha (Marty) Slattery at the University of Utah, as a biostatistician in support of some of the largest population-based cancer studies in the world. It was then that Jennifer met the great love of her life, Jeffery Speelman. The dashing couple quickly bonded over their love of cycling, motorcycles, outdoor adventure, and sense that life is best experienced to the fullest. Realizing they had both found their ideal match, they married in spring of 2006. Jen was a classic- always elegant and regal- whether dressed in formal dress or in her motocross gear. Her ability to combine elegance with rugged adventure was one of her many qualities Jeff admired and adored. Jen and Jeff enjoyed a close and endearing friendship with Jeff’s lifelong pal Wolfgang Seng, his wife Claudia, and their family.
In 2008, Jen and Jeff accepted a 3-year old foster child into their loving home and in 2011 were able to bring Shadow (aka Teri) into their family permanently through adoption. Shadow was a source of joy and pride for Jennifer. Recognizing it takes a village to raise a child, Jen and Jeff ensured that grandma Teri continue her loving involvement in Shadow’s life along with her adopted grandmother, Liz.
During her tenure with Marty, Jen impressed her colleagues with her skills and abilities, but also was the nicest working partner one could imagine. She made many friends, including Karen Curtin (Bill Wegesser) with whom Jen shared her considerable mountain biking skills and trips to Fruita, Colorado to ride the red rock with Jeff, Bill, and Wolf.
After Marty retired in 2019, Jen found a home at the University of Utah Survey Design and Biostatistics Center with Dr. Angela Presson and Dr. Tom Greene. There she collaborated with Dr. Adam Bress on important studies to improve high blood pressure treatments. Jen quickly gained the admiration and friendship of her colleagues at the SDBC. She had a dry wit, an infectious giggle, and all of her colleagues loved to hear about her outdoor adventures and newest litter of foster kittens. Jen’s skills as an expert biostatistician were much sought after by research faculty. Jennifer built an impressive list of academic accomplishments over her career, a co-author of 119 academic publications advancing research on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and glaucoma which have been cited 5,290 times.
Although Jen suffered from a congenital heart condition that worsened over the past few years, she transcended her health limitations. She always bore her physical limitations with grace and humor, living life with more ‘heart’ than most of us could ever imagine. Jennifer is survived by her adoring husband Jeff, her beloved Shadow, mother Liz, Aunt Sharon and Uncle Stu, and her fur-babies; cats Maverick, Wolverine, Sadie, and Lynx, who will miss her tremendously and who for now, bid her adieu. A celebration of Jennifer’s life will be held on Saturday, March 4th at 2:00 pm, Russon Brothers Funeral Home, 1941 N Main St, Farmington, Utah 84025. In lieu of flowers, donations in Jennifer’s memory can be made to the Humane Society of Utah, 4242 South 300 West, Murray, UT 84107, https://www.utahhumane.org/.
Services will be streamed live on the Russon Mortuary & Crematory Facebook page and on this obituary page. The live stream will begin about 10-15 minutes prior to the service and will be posted below.
“But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Albus Dumbledore, The Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling).