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‘Life of the party’: Community gathers to remember hiker who died at Valley of Fire

Updated August 13, 2023 - 9:02 am

Jessica Rosalie Rhodes, who died at the Valley of Fire State Park with a friend during a recent heat wave, was remembered Saturday as a vibrant, reverent and athletic person who devoted herself to people suffering from the COVID-19 virus.

About 125 people attended the celebration of life service for Rhodes, 34, inside a large auditorium at her church, the Word of Life Christian Center at 3520 N. Buffalo Drive.

Rhodes, a College of Southern Nevada graduate who worked as a nursing assistant at Valley, Sunrise and Summerlin hospitals, dedicated herself to working with Clark County residents during the pandemic, including comforting dying patients, according to her friend Shauntele Har.

“She said the scariest part as a health care worker provider was not knowing how to treat the virus that was spreading so rapidly through our country,” Har said.

Har recalled Rhodes expressing how painful it was to see others losing their loved ones because of COVID restrictions.

“Her and her team had to be the patient’s family,” she said. “They were the ones to give the comfort to the patient by holding their hand at the end of their life so they wouldn’t be alone, and as they passed.”

Another friend and fellow congregant at the Word of Life church, Destinee Thames, said Rhodes was a devotee of Spartan obstacle course races and the Camp Rhino obstacle course training and workshop center in Las Vegas.

“Jessica loved fitness, is an understatement,” Thames said. “She loved it and pushing herself.”

She also loved her family, art and puzzles, spending hours on a Lego set with her nephew or sketching, Thames said.

“She was the life of the party and always cared for others,” she added.

Rhodes died on July 22 — just three days shy of her 35th birthday — while on a hike at the Valley of Fire with her friend Diana Matienzo Rivera, 29.

The pair began the hike at about 6 or 7 a.m. that day, according to Rhodes’ sister Ruby Rhodes.

Jonathan Brunjes, deputy administrator of Nevada State Parks, said the women had been walking the 4.6-mile Prospect Trail and ran out of water as the temperature rose to 118 degrees.

The women were reported missing about 10 a.m. and were finally located in separate areas, one at about noon a quarter mile from the trail’s parking lot and the other two hours later, farther up the trial, Brunjes said.

The Clark County coroner’s office had not determined the cause and manner of the women’s deaths as of Friday.

“She said although it was mentally exhausting the stressful, it was an honor to be a service to those who needed help,” Har remembered of Rhodes Saturday. “And that’s just the kind of person she was, her huge heart to serve God, by helping those around her.”

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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