Lawrentians celebrate life of Alissa Thompson

Beth McHenry

Friends and family of Alissa Thompson gathered Friday night in celebration of Alissa’s life. The service began in the Science Hall atrium, where Lawrence students presented songs, poems, and stories in memory of Alissa. The memorial ended with a peaceful candlelit tribute in the courtyard between the Science Hall and Ormsby Hall.Alissa Thompson, Class of 2005, died last year over spring break when one of three Habitat for Humanity vans flipped after hitting a guardrail on the Woodland Avenue exit off of Interstate 275 in Knoxville, Tennessee. 19-year-old Alissa was a biology major, an active member of the Biology Club, and a staff photographer for The Lawrentian. She also studied abroad at Lawrence’s London Centre.

Friends describe Alissa as sweet and shy, kind-hearted and quiet, but brilliantly cynical and clever as well. Many speak of how calm Alissa was, and how she could easily calm and comfort others. Alissa was also renowned for her quirky collections and unique crafts, such as the custom bags and purses she crocheted from plastic bags and gave to friends.

Friday’s celebration was planned by friends of Alissa, especially Kat Steiner. Steiner said “Alissa’s memorial was important to me because I felt like there were lots of people on campus who were all thinking about her death – and her life – and who would all benefit from coming together to celebrate Alissa. She was such a unique, warm person and one indication of that was the diversity of people that were touched by her life and her death.”

In planning the event, friends chose to focus on “the wonderful person that she was” instead of mourning her death, said Steiner. The memorial was attended not only by Alissa’s Lawrence friends but also by her parents, Barry and Joann Thompson, and her grandfather.

Included in the celebration were many of Alissa’s favorite things and special memories of Alissa. The celebration opened with a familiar song for those who knew Alissa, the theme from Friends, Alissa’s favorite television show. Natalie Crawford and Suzanne Henrich read original compositions that compiled favorite memories of Alissa. Many of these memories were from Alissa’s trip to London in the fall term of her sophomore year. “One of the things I remember the most about Alissa was the change she seemed to go through in London, where I met her. By the time she left, she had transformed into a much more confident and adventurous person,” said Becky Halat.

The celebration prominently featured another of Alissa’s favorite things – the color lime green. Friends and family came adorned in lime green jackets, shirts, and flip-flops to recognize Alissa’s favorite color. Guests were also given lime green ribbons. Sadie Weber read a statement that commemorated Alissa’s passion for the color, a passion that extended from Alissa’s clothes, shoes, socks and coat to her hair, dyed before spring break of last year.

Friday’s celebration is only one of the many projects that Alissa’s friends and family have planned since Alissa’s death. Many scrapbooks, pictures, and crafts have been created in memory of Alissa. As expressed at the celebration, for all who knew her, Alissa is “gone from our sight, but not from our hearts.