GRANT, Mich. (WOOD) — Mari Gesler of Newaygo County died days after her 24th birthday, but nearly two months later, medical examiners still can’t confirm what happened, citing a months-long backlog in toxicology reports.
Gesler was found unresponsive at her apartment in Southern California on March 29. She had moved there 18 months earlier seeking specialized medical treatment after developing brain seizures.
Gesler was born and raised in Grant, where her parents still live. Gesler’s mom, Danette, is a sixth-grade teacher at Grant Middle School.
Danette says the support from the community and extended family has helped carry them through, as not knowing exactly what happened to their daughter is more than they can bear.
“It’s not that it’s going to change anything, it’s just I want to know,” Danette said.
Gesler’s parents flew to California after she passed but returned home with few answers.
“There was nothing in the physical autopsy that would help them explain anything,” Gesler’s dad Mike said.
While toxicology results could provide some answers, the medical examiner in California told the family it’ll likely be several more months before they get anything back.
“They said, ‘We are backlogged way longer than that, but even when you find out what the cause of death is, it might not answer your questions,’” Danette said.
Stuck in their grief, the family is pushing forward by honoring Gesler and her extraordinary love for animals by planning a memorial service at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids on June 20.
After graduating from Grant High School in 2014, Mari attended the Honors College at Michigan State University where she studied animal sciences.
Mari loved every minute of it but had to leave school after junior year as the brain seizures in her temporal lobes became more than she could manage.
The Gesler family started a GoFundMe account to help cover the cost of zoo admission fees for those attending the memorial service. The fundraiser exceeded its original $5,000 goal in a matter of days.
As donations continue to roll in, the family says every additional dollar raised will go to a cause or charity in honor of their daughter.
The Gesler family says they’re so grateful for the community’s generosity and support, while also expressing gratitude for the team at John Ball Zoo for going above and beyond in helping to organize and accommodate logistics for the memorial service.
Anyone interested in donating to the fundraiser or wanting more information about next month’s memorial service can visit the family’s GoFundMe page.