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Neighbors, family rally after Elmhurst teen's caretaker dies days before Christmas

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 1:00 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:46 a.m. CST
Caption
(Erica Benson - ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Shaun Marshall plays football with his cousins Anthony (left), Bobby and Nicholas Minkalis of Woodridge on Dec. 31. Marshall recently moved in with his family after his grandfather and caretaker died just days before Christmas.
Caption
(Photo provided)
Jerry Rochford puts his arm around his grandson, Shaun Marshall, in an photo taken this summer. (Photo provided)

ELMHURST – York High School junior Shaun Marshall lost his grandfather and caretaker Jerry Rochford just days before Christmas, but his neighbors Stacy and John Krueger wanted to assure him he still had plenty of people behind him.

“When Jerry died last week, I didn’t know what was going to happen to Shaun,” said Stacy Krueger.

Within a week she’d raised more than $10,000 toward a trust fund that 16-year-old Shaun will receive when he turns 18. What started as the effort of a concerned neighbor quickly spread into a community-wide effort to provide for a teen who has overcome more tragedy than most his age.

“Despite all the tragedy, he’s going to have an opportunity for a bright future,” Krueger said.

Shaun’s mother, Samantha, lost her battle with cancer when he was very young. For more than a decade, Shaun lived with his grandparents. Then six years ago, his grandmother, Joanne Rochford, died after a fight with cancer. That made hisgrandfather, Jerry Rochford, Shaun’s sole caretaker.

“I felt like they were just kind of adrift without Joanne,” Stacy Krueger said.

Jerry Rochford, 59, of the 100 block of Geneva Avenue in Elmhurst, died suddenly Dec. 20 after police found him unconscious in his car in the 100 block of North Michigan Avenue in Elmhurst. The DuPage County Coroner’s office is still investigating Rochford’s death.

“We were actually the first family to be called,” said Jennifer Minkalis of Woodridge, whose family has taken in Shaun.

Minkalis and her husband, Andrew, Joanne Rochford’s nephew, have three sons of their own – ages 5, 8 and 10. Even with their own boys to take care of, the Minkalises didn’t hesitate to welcome Shaun into their home.

“As a family, we knew it was the right thing to do,” Minkalis said.

John Krueger remembers sitting in the backyard with Jerry Rochford frequently, and Stacy remembers him most as a great neighbor. No strangers to flooding during large storms, Stacy Krueger said Rochford was always the first neighbor to offer assistance.

John Krueger said all Rochford ever wanted to do was take care of Shaun. John and Stacy Krueger wanted to continue their good-neighbor relationship after Rochford died and help take care of his grandson.

“Really all we wanted was for Shaun to have some type of solid footing when he turns 18,” John Krueger said.

Stacy Krueger said Shaun has a great group of friends as well, but wanted to give him a financial backing for college, trade school or car depending on what plans he makes when he graduates high school.

Minkalis said they’ve only had the opportunity to talk briefly about Shaun’s future, but he’s thought about a future in carpentry and attending College of DuPage.

“He really wants to make something of himself,” Minkalis said.

In the meantime, Minkalis is excited to bring Shaun into her home.

“This is the core value of family,” she said.

Minkalis has been blown away by the support Shaun has received from his Elmhurst community and even strangers as the fundraiser has spread through social media.

Stacy Krueger takes no credit for launching the campaign. To her, it just proves the nature of the Elmhurst community.

“I didn’t do anything that any other person living next door wouldn’t have done,” she said.

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