Brave, compassionate Mount Prospect college student mourned
Family and friends of 22-year-old Tim Gruensfelder of Mount Prospect are mourning the loss of an inspirational young man but giving thanks for the lifelong lessons he shared about facing even the most daunting of challenges bravely.
"Knowing that Tim's strength and perseverance has impacted many in times when they've been struggling is probably what I'm going to take away," his father, Bob Gruensfelder, said.
Tim died Tuesday from recent complications of a brain and spinal cancer called anaplastic ependymoma, which he was diagnosed with at age 4.
Despite using a wheelchair since he was in the fifth grade, he was a skilled basketball player and archer who was double-majoring in accounting and finance at St. Louis University after graduating from St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights in 2014.
Though Tim's cancer and its treatment provided plenty of difficulty in his younger years -- which he took on courageously -- his relative health and new independence became aspects of life he cherished in his college years, his father said.
"Tim needed very little assistance in college," he said. "He moved to an apartment with friends and didn't need us anymore. Because of Tim's circumstances, we coddled him and didn't give him the credit he deserved."
Through much of Tim's health struggles, it was he who accepted new obstacles -- including the offer of experimental treatments -- much more readily than his family, his mother, Denise Gruensfelder, said.
"He would say, 'If I don't try, how will I know?'" she said.
In fact, his parents believe the hardest challenge he faced was seeing others -- both themselves and the medical professionals -- begin to doubt his ability to bounce back in December. That's the first time Bob said he recognized a change in his son's spirit.
An aggressive return of his cancer during the second half of his junior year forced him to back out of a financial development internship with Grainger he'd won for last summer, and then to indefinitely postpone returning for his senior year in the fall.
But even during a post-Christmas trip to Louisiana, his parents and two brothers didn't expect the end of his health battle to come as soon as it did.
Of her other two sons, Joe and Danny, Denise said, "I think they're sad and going to miss him terribly."
Tim's compassion was as much a gift he shared with others as his strength, Bob and Denise said. They believe he passed on to others the care and concern he'd been shown.
A visitation for Tim will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7, at St. Raymond de Penafort Church at Route 83 and Lincoln Street in Mount Prospect. It will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 8, until the time of the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m.