Joe Quandt, former Heights student, remembered by friends in community
Friends of Joe Quandt, 20, a Cornell University sophomore who grew up in Cleveland Heights, were shocked when they heard about his sudden death from a cardiac embolism on Feb. 27.
"Joe was the total package—so smart, so funny, so talented, such a great writer . . . Eagle Scout, Phi Beta Kappa," said Peggy Hull, who taught English to Quandt his sophomore year at Cleveland Heights High School. "I was heartbroken when he left Heights; now, I'm even more so."
Quandt was born in Cleveland Heights and attended Coventry Elementary, Roxboro Middle School and Heights High before his family moved out of the Heights area following his sophomore year. He continued to stay in close contact with his Heights friends.
He was attending Cornell on a full academic scholarship, majoring in urban and regional studies.
While attending Heights High, Quandt participated in the instrumental music program, the student newspaper and the swim team. He was also a member of Boy Scout Troop 22, where he became an Eagle Scout and Senior Patrol Leader.
"Joe was a great leader who got all of the boys involved. He knew how to make all of them feel valued," said Ari Klein, Troop 22's scoutmaster and a math teacher at Heights High. "He was especially good at telling campfire stories; really funny ones that everyone could act out."
Klein said the Boy Scout troop was "like a family" for Quandt, and a "very important part of his life." Quandt's younger brother, Andrew, 17, is still a member of Troop 22.
"Joe didn't seem to care about being a leader, but he was one. He led quietly by example and by caring about others," said Faith Gill, the mother of one of Quandt's closest childhood friends. "He was everybody's first friend. When there was a new kid in school or class, it was always Joe who would make that person feel welcome and at home. If you're the new person, that's something you just don't forget. He made that kind of lasting impression on everbody he met.
"Joe loved to participate in life," she continued. "He didn't call attention to himself, but you could always look for him in the middle of a group of friends, just enjoying being a part of whatever was going on."
Brett Baker, director of the instrumental music, remembers Quandt similarly, describing him as a "nice kid, very humble, really excited, [who] left a lasting impression on a lot of people. He was a wonderful, wonderful student who loved music, was a hard worker, had a lot of friends and was a lot of fun." Quandt played alto saxophone in the Jazz Ensemble, Symphonic Winds and in a saxophone quartet during his years at Heights.
Baker recalls an uncharacteristic moment for Quandt in spring 2008, at the Jazz Ensemble's "Jazz Night" concert. Baker encourages each student to play an improvised solo during that concert—something Quandt had seldom done all year. But he agreed to do it at Jazz Night, and when his turn came, Quandt began the solo and then simply didn't stop. Baker calls it a "very extended solo."
"It was so exciting to see a freshman come out of his shell like that," said Baker. Gill vividly remembers that solo, too, as the only time she ever saw him take the spotlight and not want to give it back.
David Schellenberg, who attended Heights schools with Quandt and was a Cub Scout in Pack 36 with him, said that Quandt was "a really good person." Schellenberg last saw him when Quandt was awarded the Eagle in 2011 and said "it was great to see him and catch up with him."
"The better you knew him and his background, the more inspiring he was," said Bob Rosenbaum, whose daughters were among the group of friends who went through elementary, middle and high school with Quandt. "He was quiet, thoughtful, bright and determined to build a great future for himself. And that's exactly what he was doing."
Quandt is survived by his parents, James and Angela, his brother, Andrew, and his sister, Rachael. He is predeceased by sister Lisa Marie.
Simone Quartell, a Heights High graduate, is a student at Cleveland State University and a Heights Observer intern.