In Memory of

Kelly Jeanne Thompson

October 29, 1986 – June 19, 2005
North Branch, Minnesota

Kelly was a mile from her house when she was killed by a distracted driver. She was coming home on a Sunday afternoon after sleeping over at her girlfriend’s house. They had a sleepover for all the girls to celebrate their graduation from North Branch High School which took place two weeks earlier. Kelly was so excited about attending the Midsummer parade that Sunday afternoon with her friends – when just a year earlier, she was one of the Midsummer princesses and rode on a float in that parade.

“Don’t frown because it is over, smile because it happened”

Kelly was also very excited about our trip to London, England which was to take place on the following Tuesday. Kelly died on Sunday. The trip to London was a trip of a lifetime. We had raised funds for it for three years as Girl Scouts. We wrote Santa Letters, bagged groceries, ran car washes and sold multitudes of Girl Scout cookies to raise the money for one last event as a troop since all the girls had now graduated from high school and were either college bound or workforce bound.

Kelly was so very excited about starting college at the University of MN. Her cousin Emily would be starting there with her – and it was to be a wonderful opportunity for them to get to know each other better.

Kelly had A LOT of interests:
She loved to play piano, loved to read, she was a terrific writer and has left us with many wonderful essays and poems and stories. Kelly was passionate about helping people less fortunate than herself. Her Girl Scout Gold Award, the equivalent of the Boy Scout Eagle Award, was earned by collecting art supplies and school supplies for an impoverished school in Mendenhall Mississippi. She was able to generate 1000 items that gave 80 deprived children a chance to express themselves through coloring and paintings and drawing and sculpting.

Kelly was a 2003 charter member of the Chisago County League of Women voters (one of two youth members), she was an honor role student, basketball player, tennis player, loved doing crafts, baking, and making her own Christmas cards. She was compassionate and caring, beautiful, smart, loving. She was highlighted in the Forest Lake Times as the Families First Initiative Asset Builder of the Week award winner, for her community service work in Girl Scouts.

She worked two part-time jobs: Kitchen Collection in Tanger Mall where she was admired for her work ethic and caring and friendly demeanor, and as an evening receptionist at what is now Lakes Center for Youth & Families (the old the Youth Service Bureau) a program for at-risk and first time youth offenders. Kelly had been a volunteer for two years before becoming a receptionist. She volunteered as a camp counselor and events ambassador. She continued to volunteer after as well. Co-workers considered her a deep thinker and a person who constantly strived to make other’s lives better. “She wanted to work at a place that was making a difference in the community,” said co-worker Matt Howard.

Kelly was a member of the North Branch Community Education Advisory Council for two years (freshman and sophomore). During the years she participated in sports, Kelly received Spotlight on Scholarship Silver and Gold awards in Basketball and Tennis.

When she was killed, the world lost a gift that cannot be replaced and I lost a part of myself. Our lives are forever changed. Forever different. I miss her more than I could ever express in words. I ache for her. I will never see her graduate from college, I will never walk down the aisle at a wedding I helped to plan, I will never hold her children, my grandchildren, and I will never be able to watch her make a difference in her community and the world. I lost all of those hopes and dreams and more. I lost everything when the 23 year old driver crossed the median for whatever reason – and killed my daughter.

How can I truly express the depth of despair and anger and hurt I feel every day because of the loss of my daughter. How do I describe the sleepless nights and reliving her death over and over again in my mind. I see her sleeping on the gurney at the hospital. Cold, lifeless – with hardly a mark on her and yet her beautiful brown eyes are closed forever. Her wonderful laugh, gorgeous smile and ever more beautiful spirit are no longer here.

Over 1000 people attended he wake and funeral. That’s the impact she had during her short life. One young girl came up to me at the funeral and said she was staying in Girl Scouts and was going to achieve her Gold Award because of Kelly and how she inspired her when Kelly talked to her troop about her Gold Award project. A tall, handsome young man whom I did not know and who looked a couple of years younger than Kelly, came up to me and hugged me. He wanted me to know that Kelly had sat with him on the bus and stood up for him when kids weren’t nice. She was so nice to him and he never forgot that – even after years had gone by since they rode the bus together. Teachers told me of her maturity, intelligence and caring. There are so many stories of ways she touched the lives of so many people. I am grateful for that – for having so much to remember.

As she gave of herself in life, she also gave of herself in death. Kelly was able to donate parts of her body to give sight and hope to others. She would be very happy to know that she continued to make a difference even in death.

To the Class of 2005 by Kelly Jeanne Thompson written in June 2001 at age 14

As the year comes to an end we start to look back on how we lived the last months of our lives. We think of all the new friends and fun parties. Going to the movies and having sleepovers. New crushes that turned into boyfriends. All the time you were so happy that you could just burst. However, with the good comes the bad. All the times you were down. Every time you were sad or depressed. Whenever you were mad or hurt. But when you think of all these things, you have to remember the people who were standing next to you through it all. The ones who leant an ear when you needed to talk. The ones who offered a shoulder when you needed to cry. The few people you knew you could trust with anything. Your friends. The people who didn’t kick you when you were down, but rather, they helped you up. The ones who always made you feel safe when they were around. The people who believed in you when nobody else did. The ones who went to your games or showed up at recitals or concerts. The people who called you up late at night “just to talk.” These are the people who knew just when to tell you that you were pretty after someone had put you down. The ones who always knew when to smile at you or just say hi, and just by doing that they made your day better.

As we go into high school, we need to remember these people. You can’t get lured away by popularity or glamour. You need to remember the ones who were there with you before you were a star sports player or an extremely popular cheerleader. You need to remember the ones who loved you and cared for you when you were in dark times. Because those people who stood by you and made you stand taller when you thought that you could never be strong, those are the people that will most likely stick with you in the future. They will be the people that pick you up when you fall.
The future can be scary, and the past can be haunting, but the present is what you have now, and you need to hold on to that as dearly as you can. Because pretty soon the present is the past and tomorrow is yesterday. But having friends will make all the times in your life better.
So make friends, not enemies. And don’t let go of the people you hold dear. You are dear to me and I don’t dare let you go. I love you all.

Always and Forever,
Kelly Jeanne Thompson
Graduating Class of 2005

“The future is alive in 2005”
By Kelly Jeanne Thompson

Has the human race not yet seen enough turmoil? Have we not yet witnessed enough death and despair to echo throughout the ages? Have the sands of time been cleansed by the blood of our ancestors? What drives us? What moves us to linger in this world where we are sure of our destiny/ For the beauty of a rose is not etched into the stone of history. The laugh of a child does not resound through the ages. The march of a bloody sword crosses eons. Was hope given to our souls for a purpose? Are we naïve in believing in all that is good? Smiles are so easily lost. Yet tears can be wiped away. Even the red of blood will eventually fade. What drives this hope we hold so dear? What gives motivation to this flickering light? Yet somehow, somehow through the shrouded darkness, somehow through the bleak despair, we can still admire the beauty of a flower. We are still able to hear that laughter which had left the ear so long ago. Hope is not fleeting. No, hope cannot flee when one still clings to its sweet reassurance. Hope is not merely an invention of the grasping soul. Hope is alive in all that still can reflect its never-ending glory. Hope is in a summer’s breeze. It thrives in what you can see and feel and drives a failing heart. Hope gives reason to enjoy beauty and to cherish laughter. Hope gives reason to live when none should be granted. Hope is the work of a greater being. It is that of which human kind will never truly understand…
Kelly Jeanne Thompson 10/29/1986 – 06/19/2005

Jeanne Walz, Mother of Kelly Jeanne Thompson