It’s impossible to encapsulate the legend of Justin Michael Ingerman in a series of adjectives. Justin was extreme in all of his attributes and activities: extremely affectionate and loving, extremely inquisitive and intellectual, extremely loyal and trustworthy. Yet he was also extremely unpredictable, with the wittiest and most extremely sarcastic repartee – one had to have Justin’s extreme level of pop culture knowledge and interests to even keep up. Justin was passionate about his intellectual, athletic and personal pursuits, and the combination of these interests drove his daily life.
Justin had a unique and restless mind. Never satisfied knowing just a little bit about anything, he felt compelled to know everything about everything. The pace with which Justin could leap from politics to sports, from history to popular culture, from “yada yada yada” to “this, that and the other” was remarkable. He was almost fanatical about political history and theory, particularly with regard to Democratic strategy. He was a devoted sports fan and unfaltering loyalist of all Philadelphia teams, but could quote statistics from all major sports for the last half century. Justin loved to run track and was inspired at an early age by Coach Heed at the Haverford School; his extensive sneaker collection represented every shade of the rainbow and was unrivaled outside of Niketown. He was infatuated with Spike Lee and Guns n’ Roses, with Michael Jordan and Malcolm X. To say that Justin had a “primary focus” would be an injustice to the breadth of his curiosity; however, Justin did seem to hold a unique place in his heart and mind for everything related to the Kennedy family. He read every book ever published about the Kennedys, and capitalized on weekly travel time to and from the Jersey shore listening to books on tape and contemplating the triumphs and tragedies that defined Camelot. Justin seemed to feel an inherent connection to the young Kennedy boys, born with unbounded potential but unable to accomplish their visions of transforming this unjust world. Ironically, Justin’s prophetic bond with Jack and Bobby was deeper than the liberal political philosophies to which all three subscribed. His aspirations were more locally focused on urban affairs, and particularly social justice and low-income housing, and he may never have sought residency on Pennsylvania Avenue. But so much like JFK and RFK, Justin was an exceedingly bright, charismatic and determined young man who shared the ultimate and profound regret of a life unfinished.
Despite all of the energy Justin devoted to these aforementioned interests, he reserved infinite love and compassion for his family and friends. The most popular person in each setting he encountered, from the Haverford School to Camp Canadensis, from the University of Pennsylvania to Brooklyn Law, Justin’s wide network of personal relationships remained his first priority. Unbeknownst to some unable to read his heavy sarcasm as love, or to interpret his jokes as creating unbreakable bonds, those lucky enough to have known Justin, and fortunate enough to have been considered his friend, could be sure that there was no limit to his devotion. Justin felt a paternal sense of responsibility to those he loved, and in social settings (where he frequently found himself) he was not satisfied until everyone was smiling. In serious moments, he would go above and beyond to impart compassion, support and advice. He protected people with laughter, with cuddles and hugs and often, with food or drink. He embodied the adage that “sharing is caring” and his generosity was as extreme as the rest of his character traits. Justin frequently said that he would “take a bat for his boys” or “jump in front of a bus for his sister.” For Justin, this was not hyperbole: while he had countless friends, his love was so great that he had room for them all.
Justin was not perfect, as none of us can ever be. But those who knew Justin can be inspired by his drive to overcome those shortcomings that he feared would inhibit the success he seemed destined to achieve. We are lucky to look back on our time with him, share the many ridiculous, almost inconceivable stories of his life and laugh until we cry happy tears. And the lasting bonds that are created and maintained between those who knew Justin are a testament to the meaning of being “Justin’s friend.” Obviously, photos, quotes and stories will never do justice to the son, brother, grandson, cousin, confidante and comrade that Justin was. But everyone who played a role, large or small, in Justin’s tragically short life is encouraged to use this website to share their thoughts and memories in a way that can keep us all united in Justin’s memory.