UPDATE: This article has been updated to include Jeremiah Upton’s cause of death.
Jeremiah Upton, a 2007 graduate of George Mason High School, died as the result of a seizure on Monday, Aug. 31 at his family’s home in Meadows Place, Tx. He was born on Saturday, Aug. 26, 1989 near Myrtle Beach, SC to Amanda and Kevin Upton. Jeremiah was an eighth grader at Berkeley Middle School in Moncks Corner South Carolina when his stepfather Carl Garris got a job in Alexandria. Jeremiah’s mother Amanda is a native of the City of Falls Church and saw the move as an opportunity to return to her roots.
Jeremiah graduated from George Mason Middle School and High School in 2007, making friends like Matt Sullivan, Justin Lane, Blaine Eakes, Peter Michalski and Elena Bolaños along the way. According to Jeremiah’s mother, Peter was Jeremiah’s first friend when he and his family moved to Falls Church from Moncks Corner. He was active in the Falls Church Episcopal Church.
While in high school, Jeremiah played lacrosse under coach Mark Coffren and took journalism with Michael Hoover. He started the Edwin Albert Mroz chapter of the Order of DeMolay, where he reached the Degree of Chevalier, as Past Master Councilor. He also came in second place in a City-wide photography contest in 2006 with his city skyline sitting on top of the parking garage across from the State Theatre. After he reached driving age, Jeremiah drove a 2006 Blue Mustang to Mason – his mother said, “He thought he was all that.”
As a teen, Jeremiah enjoyed calculus, computers and information technology. Once, his mother said, he got in trouble for getting around the controls the City schools had on their computers in order to read about a video game while he was in school. “I thought this kid’s smart,” Amanda Upton said. “You should hire him to keep people from getting into the computer system. But I don’t think the principal was amused, or at least he didn’t show it.”
He enjoyed information technology so much that he majored in it, at least for a bit, when he went to Radford University. Later, he switched to computer science and then, after reading The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett, he switched to biology, set out to become a microbiologist and worked as a lab assistant in the microbiology lab at Radford.
His biggest ambition was probably wanting to find a cure for malaria. “He had a lot of great ideas,” Amanda Upton said. “And he had a lot of plans for his life.” Amanda said that Jeremiah really loved pets – in high school he had a ferret and upon his death he had three tarantulas and a roughneck monitor lizard.
Before leaving Radford in 2014 to be with his family, who moved to Texas, Jeremiah applied for and gained early acceptance to Harvard Medical College, his mother said. “He got nervous about living so far away from home and his family,” Amanda Upton said. Another example of his dedication to his family was how Jeremiah used to have oral readings of The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo with his brother Michael.
Although he left Radford and deferred decision on Harvard, Jeremiah still found a way to make science his vocation after he and his family moved to Texas in September 2014. He worked until his death at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land, Tx. as a visitor services representative. “It didn’t pay great,” Amanda Upton said. “But he really liked talking to people about science.”
He also loved working out, film, the Washington Redskins and classic rock. His mother said he really loved eclectic, odd films like “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” an interest that began in a film studies class at Mason. He and his mother attended the Washington Redskins’ November 5, 2005 22-19 win over the Dallas Cowboys. And less than a week before his death Jeremiah and his mother went to see the band Yes in concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Houston.
Jeremiah will be missed by his colleagues and regular visitors at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, his friends, classmates and colleagues at Radford, his friends, classmates, faculty and administrators in the Falls Church City Public School System and his immediate and extended family. He’s survived by his grandmother Betty Kiser; his father Kevin (Debbie) Upton; his mother Amanda (Carl) Upton; his sister Katelyn Upton and his brother Michael Upton; and his uncles Pete (Renee) and Steve Kiser.
A memorial service for Jeremiah will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 4 p.m. CST at Settegast-Kopf Funeral Home, located at 15015 Southwest Fwy, Sugar Land, Tx. The family has asked that those who want to pay their respects do so by sending them postal mail at 12311 Level Run St., Meadows Place, Tx. 77477, but may also post on the Settegast-Kopf funeral home page.