BHS senior Alexis Laughton remembered for loving heart – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — As roughly 400 seniors from Brainerd High School crossed the stage Friday, June 3, to receive their diplomas and celebrate the completion of high school, one member of the class of 2022 was notably absent.

Alexis Laughton, known as Lexi to those close to her, should have crossed that stage with her friends and tossed her blue cap in the air with the rest of her class.

She should have hugged her family after the ceremony and taken pictures with her loved ones on the football field.

Instead, Lexi’s friends and family said goodbye to the 18-year-old weeks before graduation, after she died in a car crash on May 7.

“She had the whole world open up for her to be whoever she could be, whoever she wanted to be, do whatever she wanted to do. And my heart is just broken,” Alexis’s mom Roberta Johnson said during a phone interview in the days before graduation.

Fellow seniors had a hard time grasping graduation day without their friend, too.

“It’s hard to think that my best friend isn’t gonna be there with me, for a hug or to be able to walk across the stage and be able to walk away with her diploma, but I know that looking into the future she will always be with me in my heart,” friend Mark Hahn said in an email.

Alexis Laughton loved singing in choir with her friends and taking care of animals.

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Lily Shequen, who became “best buds” with Alexis in sixth grade, had difficulty processing that idea as well.

“Every time I think about it, it’s just like, wow. We have to do this huge thing that we were supposed to do together, and I’m alone now,” Shaequen said in a phone interview. “…I know it’s going to be hard. But I know that she is going to be there in spirit and just, like, looking down on us all. And I think she’d be happy that we’re all graduating, even if she’s not there to collect her diploma.”

With the devastation felt by Alexis’s friends, her dad, Jayme Laughton, is striving to do all he can make sure they are doing OK.

“I’m just trying to make sure that her friends and all the other graduates are going to be able to enjoy their graduation,” he said in a phone interview ahead of graduation. “They worked hard for it.”

A smile to light up the room

Lexi’s bright blue eyes sparkled when she smiled, lighting up any room she was in, her mom remembers.

“I think I’ve always known this but it’s become far more evident now that she brought so much light and love to everyone around her. We’ve heard so many people say she was always there for them anytime they needed to talk,” Johnson said. “… She was just an amazing human being.”

To friend Kiya Eck, she was loyal, kind-hearted and absolutely radiant.

“It’s devastating to lose someone with so much kindness towards everything and everyone,” Eck wrote in an email.

A family of eight children and two parents, each holding a puppy, with an older dog lying front.
Alexis Laughton’s mom, Roberta Johnson, said her daughter’s smile could light up a room.

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To Hahn, she was someone he could always count on for a hug before and after concerts.

To Shequen, she was an always-present companion in choir throughout middle and high school, a friend up for any adventure and an absolute animal lover.

“If her parents wouldn’t have given her a limit, she would’ve had 50 stray dogs,” Shaequen said with a laugh.

As her mother, Johnson knew that was true.

“I would tease her that her future husband would not have a spot in the bed because there was going to be so many dogs,” Johnson said. And she said, ‘Yup, pretty much.’ She agreed.”

Hahn remembers the time he and Alexis tried to build a gingerbread house but ended up hot gluing it together in the end.

Shequen remembers a bitterly cold winter day, when everything was iced over, but she and Alexis didn’t want to spend the day inside. They braved the weather and spent the day slingshotting chunks of ice at trees.

“We had the time of our lives,” Sheequen said.

Johnson will remember her daughter’s loving heart.

“She loved fiercely — friends, family, the four-legged friends,” she said. “She loved fiercely with all her heart.”

Flowers, crosses and other tokens of remembrance surround a tree.
As seen Thursday, June 2, 2022, flowers, crosses and other tokens of remembrance surround the site where Brainerd High School senior Alexis Laughton lost her life the previous month in a car crash. The tree is located at the intersection of Thorson and Mill roads in Nokay Lake Township, east of Brainerd.

Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Alexis’s dad will remember all the animals she took care of, the numerous camping trips she shared with family and the bond that strengthened with her siblings and stepsiblings as she got older. At 18, Lexi was the baby of seven.

The memories of Alexis Laughton paint the picture of a teenager who lived life to the fullest.

“She had a good life,” her dad said. “I know as short as it was, it sucks for all of us, but what she did while she was here was pretty amazing. She made a lot of people smile and feel good and was able to physically help a lot of people through church and through friends.”

And now those people are helping one another — family and friends — weather the tragic loss.

“Our friends and family have provided us with love, prayer and support beyond our imagination,” Jayme Laughton said. “Even though we may not like it or understand why, God has a plan for each of us. Lexi had a wonderful life and we are all lucky to have been part of it. She has touched so many lives in so many ways, we love her so much.”

And Jayme Laughton hopes to use his daughter’s memory to continue doing the same work she did. Anyone who is struggling in any way, he said, should reach out to someone.

“There’s always people that are more than happy to talk and help and do whatever they can,” he said.

The following tribute was written for Alexis’s funeral:

“Lexi lived an amazing life. She gave and received so much love in everything and everyone. She was always surrounded by loving family and amazing friends. She did everything! She spent innumerable nights camping, whether she was a little one puking in the tent or hanging out at the fire with Antie Grandma, roasting marshmallows with Menga or George and her cousins. She loved playing in the lake, no matter how cold it was, whether she was swimming, fishing, kayaking or in the boat with Dad.

“She enjoyed music and was always in choir, she loved dancing whether it was Teeny or Tiny Kix or dancing in Mal’s barn where she injured her knee, leading to surgery and missing out on softball.

“She had so many different families, whether it was her relatives, softball families, church family, or school friends (especially A Cappella).

She was quite travelled, including mission trips to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Custer, SD. Family trips with us around MN and on a long road trip through 11 states to visit her two brothers and Cody, with her Mom to South Dakota, Texas and Arizona, the Cunninghams to Florida and most recently with A Cappella to New York City!

Alexis Laughton
Alexis Laughton enjoyed traveling around the country, camping with her family.

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“She has a love for sports and played park and rec ball from the time she was three all the way through Women’s softball. She enjoyed playing Co-Rec leagues and tournaments with Dad. She had a love for games whether it is yard games like bean bags in the yard or at softball tournaments and washers at the camp site or the family reunion. She played innumerable UNO games with her siblings, not to mention Apples to Apples, Yahtzee with her mom and recently whooping us at Phase 10 in the new camper. She enjoyed playing pool with her siblings and Dad.

“She was a deer hunter and enjoyed fishing with family and friends; she even got to catch fish in the ocean! She camped every year on Memorial weekend at Greer Lake with family.

Lexi had a large home life with us (7 siblings) and a smaller home life with her Mom, which was nice when she needed the peace and quiet. She had probably more big siblings looking over her than she would prefer, although she did love the attention. She always had someone to play ball or school or dolls with. The girls put on many skits when they were little, sometimes they would even rope a brother or two in to help. Recently Shane and the Laughton kids would get together for a sibling dinner, bowling or a movie.

“She enjoyed her “Girls’ Days” with her mom going shopping and ending with a steak at Texas Roadhouse. Ponchos with Mom was one of her favorites. She would also binge watch episodes of Friends.

“Lexi loved food, cooking and baking. Starting from butchering pigs, deer, and chickens with Dad to baking cookies with Menga, eating her chocolate chip pancakes, having girls’ night sleepovers. She loved Menga’s goulash! She enjoyed getting her food from nature, making applesauce, helping with maple syrup, harvesting from the garden (more-so than weeding). She loved to eat the fish she or Dad caught.

“As the baby, she got to spend more one on one time with her parents as the other children became adults. There were many “family dinners” and fun nights out as a five-some with Tyler and KC. She was a smart girl, doing very well in school. None of us who knew her will ever forget her Sassy nature! She was a Sassy Girl with big faith who enjoyed helping other people, she loved animals, and embraced life.

“God bless you child and thank you for the wonderful years we had!”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

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