JJ’s Rainbow | Family, community remembers Kent State student killed in spring break crash

Posted by in TV Reports

PARMA, Ohio – When Lisa Ruda saw a rainbow on Sunday, she said it was a sign from God.

Lisa had spent the night with her family at an Alabama hospital, where her cousin and Godson Joseph Marino was struggling to stay alive.

Joseph, or J.J., as Lisa calls him, had got into a tragic car accident Saturday afternoon. He, along with four other friends were returning from a spring break vacation. They were heading back to Kent State.

Though the other people were injured, J.J. was in the worst shape.

By Sunday, Lisa said the family knew J.J. was going to die.

“He was enveloped by his mother’s arm, with his father, his sister, his brother, his aunt and uncle and myself, and his godfather at his side,” she said. “The kid was our light. He was our sunshine. He made us who we are.”

J.J. died early Sunday evening.

Moments after saying goodbye to her 23-year-old cousin, Lisa said she witness a miracle.

“As we walked out of the room, there was a man who had been working with my family during that difficult time, and he said, ‘look outside,’ which we did. He at the same time captured the photograph of a rainbow,” she said. “It hadn’t rained that day in Alabama. There was an odd period of darkness, and then the rainbow emerged, and there was no doubt in our mind that that was J.J. saying that he’s OK. Keep shining, keep smiling, my light is still here.”


“The last couple of days have been just devastating for our family,” Lisa said. “The magnitude of this loss is really just…just indescribable. However, we’re taking incredible comfort in the prayers, the support.”

At Kent State, J.J. was a vibrant personality on campus. He was a senior in accounting, preparing to graduate soon.

On Tuesday night, dozens of people gathered to honor him at a candlelight vigil.

“Last night’s vigil at Kent State was literally the first time that JJ’s mom said to me, since the accident on Saturday, ‘I feel a little bit better.’ It was the first time she said she’s been able to smile,” Lisa said. “I’ve been with her. I’ve been with the family. We actually in midst of an incredibly grave situation, we found some peace last night. We found some happiness.”

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday at Fortuna Funeral Home, located at 7076 Brecksville Road in Independence.

The funeral will be at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at St. Anthony’s of Padua, located 6750 State Road in Parma.