Phoenix Nesmith, 21, of Topeka, passed away on June 10, 2020 at Stormont Vail Hospital.
They were born on June 3, 1999 to Darrin and Nicole (Cramer) Nesmith in Topeka, KS. It became obvious early on that not only was Phoenix very smart and funny, they were very much their own person with their own point of view. They were incredibly strong willed and no one was going to convince Phoenix to do something they didn’t want to do.
Phoenix attended Topeka High School and graduated with the Class of 2017 and later received a scholarship to attend Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
In Junior High, Phoenix finished first in Regional History Day two years in a row and in the second year finished first in the State, going on to compete at Nationals in Washington, DC. The first year the topic they chose was Harvey Milk. Phoenix was advised against what could be seen as a controversial topic, but Phoenix strongly felt it was a topic that needed to be discussed.
Phoenix participated in Forensics at Topeka High for two years. They finished first twice, State qualified five times and competed at State their Senior year. Phoenix definitely was not a morning person, but managed to get up at the crack of dawn to participate. They loved the research, the tournaments, helping their peers, and their coach Dustin Rimmey. Phoenix also was on the Scholar’s Bowl team for 2 years and greatly enjoyed the competitions.
Phoenix was a member of Beacon Youth Group, Topeka Pride, Capital City Equality Center, K-STEP, Topeka High Forensics, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka and Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka. They thoroughly enjoyed the community and connections they made in Topeka.
Phoenix identified as Bisexual and genderqueer, using They/Them pronouns. They were an activist for social justice including LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter. Phoenix was an amazing advocate for change and discussed rights for all marginalized groups that were in need of support. Phoenix did hours and hours of research on mental health issues, racism, prejudice, LGBTQ+ history and more, so when they spoke publicly, they did it with authority. Phoenix was posting about racism right up to the time they passed away. They were always completely transparent with the issues they faced or a point of view they had, no matter how uncomfortable it made other people. Phoenix was never happier than when they could educate people about sexuality and gender identity, and many people sought their advice.
Phoenix was the youngest featured poet for the Topeka Speak Easy Open Mic Night. They were the president of Beacon Youth Group for three years. They received an outstanding youth award from Topeka Pride and was a Board Member for a number of years. Phoenix was asked to speak at many events including the Aaron Douglas Art Fair and World AIDS Day.
In addition to speaking out about equality, Phoenix was open about their battle with mental health issues and the stigma surrounding these issues. They had struggled with mental health issues from 8th grade through most of high school, with over a dozen hospitalizations. During their junior/senior years of high school things changed. It seemed Phoenix had finally found the right medication combo, the right therapist and transferred to the right high school. They went from being a kid that suffered from extreme separation anxiety, to feeling confident enough to move out of state to start college.
Phoenix had a love for Hayao Miyazaki films, playing Guild Wars 2, and the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchatt book and subsequent mini-series “Good Omens.” Whatever topic Phoenix was currently interested in, their friends and family heard about it, a lot. Their most recent favorite topic was their significant other, known as Hex. Phoenix was never happier than when the two of them were able to spend time together.
Phoenix is survived by their loving parents, Nicole (David Navarro, Jr.) Nesmith and Darrin (Becky) Nesmith; their siblings, Phinnley Navarro, Tison Delgado and Sarah Tilton; their grandparents, Charlene Nesmith, Barbara (Jim) Roy, and Janis (Jerry) Licatesi; their aunt, Stacy (Jeremy) Schmelzle; their uncle, Paul (Karen) Cramer; their cousins, Zac and Zander Schmelzle, McKenzie and Lauren Cramer; their godmother, Sharla Letsch; their family friend, Kimberly Daugherty; their significant other, Pat "Hex" Menard and Phoenix’ beloved support dog, Jalex.
Phoenix was preceded in death by their grandfathers, Houston Nesmith, Vernon Cramer and an aunt, Stephanie Mott.
Honoring Phoenix’ request, a green burial is planned. A private graveside service will be held Wednesday, June 24, 2020. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. Penwell-Gabel Cremations, Funerals and Receptions, 1321 SW 10th Ave., Topeka is assisting the family. Memorial contributions may be made to Beacon Youth Group of Topeka.
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