MENDOTA - Staci Jessica Sessler “Staci J,” 44, left this world after putting up one hell of a ‘Staci J fight’ on June 29, 2020 due to complications of surgery at IVCH.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7 at the Merritt Funeral Home, Mendota. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery, Mendota near her cherished Grandpa Louie, and her treasured baby, Skye. Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. on Monday, July 6 at the funeral home. Those attending are required to wear a face mask.
Staci was born March 10, 1976 in Spring Valley on a beautiful spring-like day to Gary L. and Pat (Baird) Sessler.
Survivors include her life partner and father of her girls, Todd Hannen; three daughters, Savannah, Storm and Serenity, as well as her stepchildren, Nicholas and Brooke Hannen; one grandson, Jacob Lee Hannen; her parents, Gary and Pat; her siblings, Justin, Amber and Finn Sessler; one nephew, Austin Sessler, who stole her heart the moment he was born; and her grandmothers, Florence “Mickey” Baird and Marge (Sessler) Nance.
She was preceded in death by her daughter, Skye, in infancy; her grandfathers, Louie Baird and Oscar Sessler; and her step grandmother, Rose (Bornemann) Sessler.
Staci was an outgoing and gregarious person her whole life through, always looking out for others and willing to help in any way. She actively assumed the fight for any underdog or injustice she encountered and never met a stranger. She attended Clown’s Corner Preschool, where her teachers reported her marshalling and organizing her classmates at the tender age of four. She moved on to Holy Cross Grade School, where she excelled academically, allowing her to tutor some of her fellow students struggling in class. While in grade school, she became one of the “Five Musketeers” – five young ladies who, to this day, support one another through all life throws at them. She was very active in Mendota Camp Fire Boys and Girls, holding leadership positions at an early age. After a summer biology class, she asked to switch schools to pursue a more in-depth quest of the subject that fascinated her and found delight and challenge through her favorite teachers, Bill Garthe and Dave Brewer. After graduating from Northbrook, she made a careful, informed choice to attend Saint Bede Academy. When asked, “What would you like St Bede to do for your daughter?” her parents, quickly and succinctly answered, “Stop her from saying she is so bored with school.” They did, placing her in honors classes where she was challenged and exposed to other kids as bright and inquisitive as she had always been, competing in Scholastic Bowl, where she cemented life-long friendships with “her boys.” She was a four-year member of the Lady Bruins Basketball Team and loved participating in their alumni game. She received her Associate Degree from IVCC, working in the tech center and the counseling office and serving as the editor for the “Apache” school newspaper. After a debilitating fight with Crohn’s Disease that derailed her soon to be career as a national Hooters Girl trainer, she changed her focus from pursuing a degree in archeology to physical and social sciences. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Governor’s State University in 2006, while losing and grieving for her precious Skye.
Music always held a high place in Staci’s life. She performed in Illinois Valley Youth Symphony; the Saint Bede pit orchestra, when she wasn’t performing on stage; and marching band and jazz band at Saint Bede and at IVCC. But her proudest musical accomplishment was picking up the trumpet and learning how to not only play but excel, so she could perform with the VFW Memorial Squad, Post 4079, to ensure that her grandpa always had a bugler for Taps. That was a labor of love for over 30 years, most recently participating in Taps Across America in May. She was a member of Bugles Across America. She was an avid Cubs, Bulls and 303 fan.
Staci was highly active in her community, near and far. Always one to help others out of her own tragedy, because of her daughter, Storm’s disabilities, she decided to join other NICU moms founding the Little Miracles Parent Advisory group for the Rockford Memorial NICU (now Mercy Hospital.) The loss of her daughter, Skye, and her work with WIC as a breastfeeding advocate, had her donating 16 gallons of milk to the Indian Mother’s Milk Bank after Skye’s death. She was an executive board member of AFSCME Local 3700, holding the only position reserved for Extension employees, was a new board member with IVCIL, and also volunteered at Salvation Army, Streator, and was an active Special Olympics supporter and volunteer.
She worked at University of Illinois Extension for 13 years as a community worker/SNAP-Ed, Fitness and Nutrition Programs Specialist, and as the U of I-Bureau County Site Coordinator. She later worked as an outreach specialist at Tri-County Opportunities Council. Most recently, she accepted the position of food service director and co-teacher, through the Regional Office of Education in the SAFE school program. Just this year, Staci received the Support Staff Award for Excellence. She also recently began a “side hussle,” as she liked to call it, supporting and encouraging women to let their beauty shine through Younique, and loved the changes she affected.
Memorials may be directed to the family.