Madelene “Madi” Quissek can be seen in a recent video taken during a student appreciation event at the Teton Middle School. She is beaming as she is calling her students to the front of the gym and talking about their accomplishments. One of those students was John McKellar.
“She spent extra one-on-one time with him to teach him to code,” said John’s mother Sarah McKellar on Sunday, two days after Madi died along with another valley resident, Dory Grace Puglisi, 8. “Madi went out of her way to help him continue to learn. He had her again this past quarter, and at the end of the year she brought in some special goggles they could wear and have a virtual experience in a world they created online. She just went out of her way to inspire the kids to learn more about computers.”
On Friday, the improbable news washed over the valley as word spread that Madi and Dory had died after the car they were in collided with another vehicle driven by valley resident Myrna Izaguirre. Also traveling with Madi was her own daughter, Emma, who survived the accident and was life-flighted from Madison Memorial Hospital to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake where she remains this week recovering from surgeries.
In a statement from Teton Middle School principal Brian Ashton wrote to families and staff Tuesday morning this week saying, “I know that Mrs. Quissek loved working with each of you. I know this because I watched her grow into her job. When she first started, she wasn’t sure if she had made the right choice. She and I had some long talks, and other mentors reached out to support her. By the end of the first quarter, she was thriving. She was approached by some students to lead a club that happily called themselves the ‘Nerd Herd.’ This club was a welcoming place for students who shared similar interests with Mrs. Quissek. Her comment to me was that she spoke the ‘herd’s’ language and was loving working with her kids.”
He added, “I believe one of the ways we can show Mrs. Quissek how grateful we are to have had her in our lives is by how we treat those around us. I’d like to challenge each of you to reach out to your loved ones and tell them you love them. Give them a hug and be grateful to have them in your life.”
McKellar spoke of Quissek’s love for students and of her encouragement to parents like herself.
“My son won this contest they had for the sixth grade English class on finding a problem and helping create awareness for that problem, finding a solution,” added McKellar. “At the assembly where he presented his project, afterward Ms. Quissek came up to me and told me what a remarkable son I have, how well-spoken he is. I told her he was born that way, that I was just trying not to mess him up. She smiled and said I wouldn’t. That was the last time I talked to her. It was last week.”
According to Emma’s GoFundMe page, she underwent emergency surgery to address her intestines which were impacted by her seatbelt during the accident. The family expects Emma home by the end of this week.
According to her cousin, Kimberly Olives, Myrna is currently at the University of Utah Hospital after she was life-flighted from Madison Memorial Hospital on Friday evening.
Myrna is a familiar face working at Provisions Restaurant in downtown Driggs. According to her GoFundMe page, she is a single mother with a daughter who is 9 years old. Her cousin Olives writes, “She has a long road of recovery ahead of her and due to the tragedy, she will be unable to work for some time once she’s out of the hospital.”
Olives told the Teton Valley News on Monday, “Myrna has two fractured legs and a fractured neck. She underwent one surgery already and still has two more to go.” Olives added, “All the love, support, help and prayers from the valley and each individual that has come together to help have really touched Myrna and her child. They are forever grateful to each and every individual who has been a blessing.”
Each family has set up a GoFundMe page with links to each other in an undeniable connection of their lives.
Dory was 8 years old and had just finished the second grade dual-immersion program at Driggs Elementary School. She was an excited member of the Teton Wolverine Lacrosse program and an avid ball player with soccer camp coming up next week. She is the daughter of Frankie Owens-Puglisi who runs the popular Barefoot Pilates Studio in downtown Driggs, and little sister to Gwen who she called “Sissie” and brother Alex.
“She liked the library and playing with her friends,” said Frankie on Monday. “She loved chapter books, she was getting into all of them. She would read a chapter book in a day and half.”
Frankie described Dory as an old soul who was spunky, sweet, intelligent, and maternal. “She just loved animals and wanted to open her own pet hotel with she grew up. We have a house full of animals because of her.”
Frankie remembered Dory as an infant who possessed a peaceful face. “I just loved breastfeeding her and smiling at her pretty face,” said Frankie.
Frankie said Dory was excited for the summer. The family had planned a big trip to England to visit Frankie’s family whom Dory had only met when she was 6 months old.
Frankie added that she was close to Dory and were always hugging and kissing and saying, “I love you. I love you back. I love you more.”
“Every morning I would drop her school and we had this thing, ‘Have a FAN-TAB-ULOUS day!’”
Lee Puglisi, Dory’s father remembers her as old soul too. “I’ve have three great kids and Dory was just spectacular,” he said on Monday. “I look forward to picking her up every day. She was really a great person to spend time with and she a funny girl,” he said through tears. “I’m selfish because I will miss her for me. She was so wonderful to be around. My life is lessened drastically without her.”
Dory’s funeral is planned for Monday, June 17 at noon at the Good Shepard Catholic Church in Driggs. A public viewing will be held at 11 a.m. at the church prior to the service. Dory’s obituary may be found online at www.tetonvalleynews.net.
In addition to the GoFundMe site, an additional fund has been set up at Key Bank in Driggs as the Frankie Owens Charitable Fund to support the family during this time.
According to the Idaho State Police, Madi, 45, was traveling eastbound on Highway 33 in a 2007 Toyota Rav. Myrna , 43, was traveling westbound in a 2015 Toyota Rav. Quissek and Izaguirre’s vehicles struck each other head on. Everyone involved in the accident was wearing a seatbelt. ISP was assisted at the scene by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Teton County Fire Department, and the Idaho Transportation Department. The crash is under investigation by the Idaho State Police.