About two weeks ago, the Mission Viejo High School graduating class of 2002 celebrated their pasts and shared their futures. But three classmates were conspicuously absent, having died before reaching their 10-year class reunion.
One classmate decided to honor their memory in a new YouTube video. You can see the video attached to this story.
Jeff Davis wanted to remind his 600-strong graduating class of the special impact Steve Brown, Joey Hanzich and Megan Mishork had on the world before they left it.
Davis, now a corporate recruiter in Austin, Texas, said he was close to two of the deceased, and did some research to learn about the third.
He started talking to the lost students' parents.
"They said they had no idea there were any children from that class that passed away," he said. "They thought it was their child who was the only one. I think it was a good thing for the parents… knowing someone went through something similar."
Brown was an athlete, according to Davis's research. He played on the track and field team.
"He was really a light-hearted guy," Davis said. "He always had a smile on his face. I didn’t know him that much, but now I wish I had. Sounds like he was an incredible person."
Brown lost his life driving to Las Vegas in a car accident. Davis said he was driving without a seat belt and was ejected. He died Sept. 10, 2004.
Hanzich made his mark as a driven, high-achieving student with plans for a political career. Davis knew him since kindergaarten.
"He was an incredibly gifted person," Davis said. "He was one of the smartest people I met. He was incredibly nice. He had political aspirations. His quote in the yearbook was "Nov. 6, 2020," the year he’d be elected into public office—and knowing Joey, he would’ve gotten there."
At Harvard, Hanzich studied government. He belonged to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and was a Rhodes scholarship finalist. He also volunteered in nursing homes and provided Spanish translation services to the poor.
After graduating from Harvard, Hanzich attended law school at Yale.
According to the Harvard Crimson, he died in 2006 at age 23.
"He had an unexpected heart attack in his sleep and died," Davis said. "It turned out he had an undiagnosed heart condition. It really shocking and surprised everyone."
Mishork was active in the drama department at Mission High. That's where Davis met her.
"She was an incredibly sweet person, a joy to be around, always smiling, always laughing," he said.
In college, Mishork was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. This is unusual. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, ALS does not usually appear until the sufferer is about 50 years old.
Davis saw Mishork at a charity walk.
"She was still smiling, still laughing, she was the same Megan, just battling this disease," he said. "She looked at me and said, 'I really hope I’ll make it to our 10-year reunion."
A year or two after she was diagnosed, Mishork died as a result of her illness July. 17, 2011.