Jackiel Emerson Irwin-Diehl, 17, of Philadelphia, whose parents described him as an exuberant child who was always full of energy, died Friday, Jan. 31, at Einstein Medical Center after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver’s vehicle on Lincoln Drive.
Mr. Irwin-Diehl was a junior at Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where he majored in dance.
“He was a lifelong ballet dancer,” said his mother, Rebecca Irwin-Diehl. "He had added hip-hop and modern and jazz as part of his major. But ballet was his heart.”
Mr. Irwin-Diehl, who grew up in Germantown, played youth baseball in Mount Airy. He was looking forward to baseball tryouts at his high school this month and hoped to be a catcher, said his father, Nathan Irwin-Diehl.
“He had a natural aptitude for it,” added his mother. “I think his balance as a dancer helped him as a catcher.”
Mr. Irwin-Diehl was born in Philadelphia in 2002. He was placed in foster care with the Irwin-Diehl family when he was 11 months old. When the couple finalized his adoption in 2005, he became the youngest of three sons, his mother said.
When he was about 12 years old, Mr. Irwin-Diehl began exhibiting mood disorders and behavioral health concerns, his parents said, and spent time during the last year in a residential treatment center. He had just returned home in September, said his father, and was doing better.
"It seems like he was turning a corner,” said Nathan Irwin-Diehl.
Added his mother: “He had gotten his grades up in the last marking period, was looking forward to playing baseball, and he was getting along better with his brothers.”
She wrote about her son: "Jackiel’s therapist often used the analogy of climbing up (and falling down) a mountain to characterize his work in residential treatment. So, on Mother’s Day last year, when still in residential, Jackiel made me a wooden picture frame on which he painted the words, “I love you. No matter how many times I have to go up the hill to come back home. ~from J.”
Police still haven’t found the driver of the car that hit the teen after he left home about 6:40 p.m. that day, Nathan Irwin-Diehl said. A police spokesperson said the case is under investigation.
“He was a wonderful spirit with a lot of energy and a lot of talent," said his father. "Life with Jackiel was never dull.”