‘Fun-loving’ and ‘hardworking’: journalism major dies after car accident


Bob Galuski, Editor-in-Chief

UPDATE: NOV. 16, 2014 9:47 P.M.

To anyone lucky enough to hear it, Samantha Middendorf’s laugh could be described as “infectious.”

It would light up a room, and soon everyone fortunate enough to be in its path would know that she was happy.

“She had an amazing laugh. And it was not hard to make her laugh. She had a great sense of humor and a great smile,” said Sally Renaud, the interim chair of the journalism department. “She had a real innocence about her, and she genuinely enjoyed working.”

Middendorf, a sophomore journalism major, died Saturday night after receiving injuries from a car accident on Interstate 57. She was 19.

The accident happened at 8:35 p.m. near the U.S. Route 45 interchange of I-57 just south of Mattoon. Middendorf, from Fayetteville, Ill., was riding with Jarad Jarmon, a senior journalism major, in his pickup truck according to a news release sent out by the Illinois State Police Department.

The news release stated the pickup was headed northbound when it went off the road. The truck overturned and stopped at the bottom of an embankment.

Jarmon, 21, is being treated for injuries at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

The news release said Jarmon was ejected from the truck and Middendorf was partially ejected. Middendorf was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced yet.

Renaud said that in the next few days the journalism department will be helping students get through this difficult time, and will let everyone know when services are.

“We take the grieving process very seriously, and there are people here who are here to help,” she said. “We want people to feel comfortable coming to us. This is the time we absolutely need one another.”

Counseling Center services are also available to students.

Angi Parker, a counselor at the center, said the facility is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and is free to students.

“We’ll talk about grief, help them process, talk about what they can do to be helpful,” Parker said.

Middendorf worked in Eastern’s journalism department and was the entertainment editor for The Daily Eastern News. She previously had worked for The News as a copy editor.

Dominic Renzetti, The News’ current assistant sports editor, was editor in chief when Middendorf first began working on the copy desk.

To have known Middendorf was to know how hard of a worker she was, and how much dedication she brought to her job.

“I always liked having her around. She had a good attitude you need on a copy desk. You know, she was calm when we were under pressure,” Renzetti said. “She always wanted to learn. She was a good worker and a good friend.”

While juggling her job either on the copy desk or as entertainment editor, Middendorf was also an office worker for the journalism department.

Beth Kastl, the journalism office administrator, knew Middendorf was the kind of person she needed in the office.

“As someone hiring a student worker, the question I ask people — and it might sound stupid — is, do you know your ABCs?  Because you’d be surprised how many don’t know how to file,” Kastl said. “Sam was one of those who knew her ABCs.”

As she transitioned from the copy desk at the end of the spring semester of 2014, she entered a new phase as entertainment editor for the fall semester.

Stephanie Markham, The News’ current news editor, worked with Samantha as she grew as a journalist.

And as she grew, she worked hard to continue expanding the entertainment beat to areas it had never been.

Markham said she had been impressed with how much Middendorf wanted to grow, even including reviews into her entertainment beat as a way to further help the newspaper along.

“She has been working with so many reporters, and doing so many things we haven’t done before, like doing reviews,” Markham said.

Renaud could tell Middendorf had been nervous to take over the entertainment beat, but she went into it with the same drive and motivation she had while working in the journalism office.

But underneath Middendorf’s passion for working rested a caring drive that emerged again and again as she helped new journalists find their way.

Renaud recalls when high school journalists showed up for a tour and to find out about the journalism department how eager Middendorf was to help them out. It didn’t matter if it was a reporter on her beat or a high school student unsure of their future — she would be there to give them a guiding hand.

“She loved what she was doing, she loved her fellow workers and wanted other people to have that same experience,” Renaud said.

And with that love came a personality and laugh that affected everyone around her, especially those she worked with and were friends with.

“I think people don’t know what it’s like to work at the newspaper, but we’re all like a family. At the beginning of the semester, you don’t really know anybody, but by the end we’re all friends. And I think that’s just why it’s so hard for everyone here. And why it’s such a shock to everyone,” Renzetti said. “But we’ll be fine because we have each other. We’re not just coworkers. Those eight pages are what hold us together.”

And when everyone thinks of Middendorf, their thoughts won’t just go to how caring of a person she was, or how dedicated to her job she was, but also to that room-filling laugh.

“The biggest thing I can say about Samantha is she has just such a huge personality. When she was happy about something, when she was laughing, it wasn’t long before the whole room knew about it,” Markham said. “I can still hear her laugh echoing in my head. You couldn’t beat it.”

Bob Galuski can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].