Jessica Renee Flatequal


She was bold. She was funny. She was fierce.
She was an advocate for the underdog, a protector of the downtrodden, and a friend to all.
But most of all, Jessica Flatequal lived her life ... ALIVE.
Jessica lost her battle with liver disease this week. She was 46. She leaves behind a grieving wife and family who will never forget her megawatt smile (or her love of Halloween and Karaoke), and a community that, while sad today, is much brighter for having her light shine within it.
A Celebration of Life will begin at 1pm, Saturday, April 13, 2019 at the Mankato Civic Center's Grand Hall. And oh, what a life it was! A reception, complete with great food and drinks, fun friends, and wonderful music, will follow until 4pm. Mankato Mortuary is assisting the family with arrangements.
Jess would love anyone who wants to attend the Celebration of Life to do so. Therefore, in lieu of flowers or gifts, the family encourages you to donate to their GoFundMe page to offset their final expenses, which can be found at
Supremely empathic and eternally optimistic, Jessica's presence in Mankato saved lives, changed minds and made the city and the campus of Minnesota State University places where people felt accepted and valued for who they were, and perhaps a little less afraid. She loved her community, was proud of Mankato and the progress it made, and called herself a "townie" whenever the subject came up.
Jessica was born in North Dakota but grew up mostly in Mankato. A graduate of Mankato East High School, she earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Minnesota State University. In 2004, she was hired at MSU as the first director of the LGBT Center.
Landing that job was a seismic moment for both Jessica and the community. It meant countless young people would have an advocate who would answer the phone at any time to help someone sort out the biggest issues in their lives, and MSU would have a world-class administrator, passionate spokesperson and all-around lovable presence in an office that would grow in influence and importance under her leadership. Scores of students were ushered into a college experience that had a foundation of love, support, understanding and guidance - complete with an ear-to-ear grin and smart bowtie. For many young people in southern Minnesota who were suffering in darkness, Jessica was the light they needed to find their way to happier lives.
Soon after taking that job, Jessica took the reins of South Central Minnesota Pride, the organization behind the annual Mankato Pridefest. Under her leadership, Pridefest attendance swelled from 200 to roughly 3,000, and is now one of the most well-respected such events in the state.
But Jess' life wasn't all work. The best times were spent with Maria Bevacqua, whom she married in 2015. The couple started dating in 2003 and, for Maria, thus began an adventure. Literally.
"She loved travel and was very adventurous," Maria recalled. "She helped me learn to love travel and not be intimidated by it. Her enthusiasm helped open my eyes to the wonder and beauty of the world."
Jess loved to bring pets into their family. But not just any pets. She was drawn to the underdogs of animal shelters, and in that spirit they welcomed their first dog, Mabel, to the family more than a decade ago. Others would follow, including Jackson, a special needs cat Jess gave to Maria as a holiday gift.
Creativity was part of Jess' life early on. As a child, she'd go door to door with a fake Kenny Rogers beard and guitar and offer to play "Coward of the County" for tips. In college, she majored in art, and at least one of her paintings is still hanging in MSU's Centennial Student Union. And she loved singing Karaoke.
Jess is survived by her spouse, Maria; mother, Diane Gannon; father, Bob Flatequal; step-sisters, Tina Holcombe (Brian) and Tiffany Gannon; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her step-father, John Gannon.
On Jess' 38th birthday, Maria wanted to do something special for her, and Jess loved a flash mob. So Maria, with the help of a talented choreographer and friends who loved Jess so much, practiced dance moves on their own time, lured Jess into a crowded student union at MSU where a flash mob awaited. Out of nowhere, a dozen friends suddenly sprung into a rehearsed dance routine ... and Jess never saw it coming.
"I don't think any birthday is gonna be able to top this one," Jess said in the moments following the flash mob. "I think I've peaked here at 38."
In footage from that day, Jess can be seen jumping in to join the mob, lip syncing the final words to "Bad Romance," dancing, smiling bright, confident and happy, and, as usual, surrounded by people who loved her.
Published on April 11, 2019
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4 posts

Mark Bugni
Apr 20, 2019
So sad to hear this news. Jessica was a ton of fun growing up and going to High School with... she had a witty comment for everything... whoever wrote this obituary did a wonderful job. Describes her to a “T” . I did not know that Kenny’s Rogers “Coward of the County” bit she did tho! When I read that, you could totally see her doing that! My condolences to Jessica’s family... she was a great, great human being and will be sorely missed...
Heidi Ferley-Bergersen
Apr 12, 2019
My deepest heartfelt condolences to Maria, Diane,Tina, Tiffany and the entire family. Jess was a beautiful woman and I'll never forget growing up with her. She always made me laugh and was such an incredible friend. Rest in peace beautiful soul. She will be greatly missed.
Clare Mountain
Apr 12, 2019
We only met Jess once,however she was very memorable. Loved her immediately. So prayers are said but memories forever
Take care Diame, lots of love from Jerry and Clare
Kathy Schultz
Apr 11, 2019
Jess was 'larger than life'! I wish peace and love for Maria, other family members and Jess's many wonderful friends.