Susan Jarrell was a French teacher with a passion for all things Paris — she once studied abroad and was known to keep the attention of a group of Girl Scouts just by speaking French to them.
She was also a friend with a "heart of gold" who would do anything for anyone, anytime.
More than all of those things, Jarrell was a mom who embraced her children, volunteering for auctions and staff appreciation days at her kids' schools. She was always watching from the sidelines whether the sport be volleyball or soccer or track and field.
"She was the most caring woman; she had the ability to draw people in and make them feel comfortable," said Francie Vachon, a good friend of Jarrell. "She was a true angel."
Jarrell, a teacher at and in Rochester, was found dead Tuesday night in the driveway of her ex-husband's Bloomfield Township home; police say
Susan Jarrell was 45; she had three children between 10 and 14 years old.
'She lived for those kids'
Vachon, who lives in Bloomfield Hills, first met Jarrell 6 1/2 years ago when they volunteered to be co-leaders of their daughters' Brownie troop.
"It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship," Vachon said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Vachon talked about Jarrell and everything she leaves behind. "Her legacy is those kids," Vachon said. "She lived for those kids. She loved to boast about those kids. She was there for them 100 percent."
Caroline, Ellyn and Nick Jarrell were being cared for by Susan Jarrell's parents, who drove up from Toledo, Vachon said. Caroline and Ellyn are students at in Bloomfield Hills. Nick is a student at University of Detroit Jesuit High School.
Vachon spent time with the family Wednesday.
"Kind doesn't even begin to describe the way Susan was," Vachon said. "She was so genuine; she had a heart of gold. That's a rarity today. This is just heartbreaking.
"We lost a true gem."
Dawn Zink, also a close friend of Jarrell, first met her in 2004 when their daughters attended preschool together at in Rochester Hills.
Their daughters are now in school together at St. Hugo. Zink remembered Jarrell as kindhearted and positive.
"She always had a smile on her face," said Zink, who last saw Jarrell right before Christmas. "Even through all she had been through lately, with her divorce, she was always happy, always with a positive attitude.
"She was learning to turn all of that negative around."
School community saddened
Jarrell had been a teacher at Stoney Creek and Hart since September 2010. On Wednesday morning, teachers at both schools read prepared statements to students about Jarrell's death. Counselors and administrators met with her classes and the district's Critical Incidence Teams were made available to support classrooms, individual students, staff members and parents.
"Susan was one of the most positive and dedicated teachers I have ever met," said Larry Goralski, principal at Stoney Creek. "From her bright smile to her love of her students and family, Susan will be greatly missed."
In an email letter to parents Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Fred Clarke said Jarrell was "highly regarded by both her students and her colleagues."
"The Rochester Community Schools community is deeply saddened at this time," he stated in the email. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Jarrell family."
Jarrell was planning a trip with students to France this summer, according to The Source, the Stoney Creek newspaper.
In a short article in the 2010-11 Stoney Creek yearbook, Jarrell was interviewed about being a new teacher. "I love teaching here and the thing that really drives me is the quality of my students, they are just great," Jarrell said.
Students: 'You touched my life'
Many of those students took to Twitter to express their grief on Wednesday:
@gbrace5 (Grant Bracey): Rest in peace Madame Jarrell. You will be missed.
@AUDDKHOURY (Audrey Khoury): Rest In Peace to the best French teacher out there... Madame Jarrell you will be missed<3 Thank you for everything you taught me. I love you
@eliiisefournier (Elise Fournier): Madame Jarrell, the kindest, smartest, most beautiful person and tres manifique French teacher <3 #ripmmejarrell
@kyles_4_miles (Kylie Brandon): RIP Madame Jarrell. We love you all so much and you will be missed greatly. My thoughts and prayers go towards your children. <3
@tanner_clarke (Tanner Clarke): RIP Mrs. Jarrell, you were the best French teacher I could've asked for and you touched my life in so many ways. Gonna miss you so much
@savannahhosford (Savannah Hosford): RIP Mrs. Jarrell . I love you , and you were one of the best teachers .
@AlissaIvezaj (Alissa Ivezaj): This doesnt seem real to me. I keep thinking that I'm going to walk in to class tomorrow and see Madame Jarrell standing there.
Funeral planned for Monday
According to family members, Susan Pawlecki Jarrell was born Oct. 12, 1966. She grew up in Toledo, where she attended Christ the King School and Notre Dame Academy. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1989 and later received her master's degree in education from Vanderbilt University.
In addition to her children, she is survived by her parents, Dennis and Linda Pawlecki, and her brother, Michael Pawlecki (Elizabeth).
Funeral arrangements were being handled through A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home in Troy.
A wake is scheduled for 2-8 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home with a scripture service at 7 p.m. A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Hugo of the Hills Church, 2215 Opdyke Rd., Bloomfield Hills. Visitation at the church begins at 10 a.m.
Memorial tributes will be directed to a fund for the Jarrell children; details will be available Thursday.