Holding hands and tearfully watching speeches by Laura Miller's mother and father, dozens of students, faculty and staff gathered at Nicolet on Monday to remember the freshman who passed away from a brain tumor nearly three years ago.
"She had a personality that transcended different groups. She was just well liked by lots and lots of kids. It really affected the entire school," Principal Greg DePue said.
Laura Miller was only 14 years old when she passed. Her mother, Susan Miller, said she was in class on Tuesday and by Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009, was in intensive care. "It was that quick," she said. By that Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009, she was gone.
On Monday, dozens gathered at the C and D wing intersection at Nicolet for the unveiling of the new art display case that would house drawings Laura had made of different fashion designs, as well as some dresses that were brought to life from those drawings. This case is a perminent installation at Nicolet, but will change with the ebb and flow of students who come through the high school in the future.
"I love the idea of this case because I love the idea that it's a living thing," School Board member Joe Kasle said. "It will always be in memory of Laura, but it will always inspire kids to say 'How do I get in the case?'"
Laura had an incredibly aggressive brain tumor that had grown so rapidly, doctors were forced to heavily medicate her for the pain before her family was forced to let Laura go without so much as a goodbye.
"But that part has never bothered me because we had told her 'I love you' a million other times every other day," Susan said.
And while many high school students have their niche and their groups, Laura was known for transcending the layers of the social ladder, making anyone and everyone smile.
"She was friends with everyone, but she was someone who learned how to have her own path in life," Susan said. "She treasured the things she loved doing, she shared them with her friends, but she wasn't persuaded to do them."
District Administrator Rick Monroe said it's a unique quality that not many high school children have, especially when Laura had only been at Nicolet for about six months.
"It's unusual that one student would be supported by that many students that early in her stay here," Monroe said. "Such an outpouring for someone who was just here for a few months is uncanny. It really says a lot to what kind of person she was."
But Laura's mother says that the quick onset of the tumor was, in a way, a blessing. There was no suffering through chemotherapy treatments or struggling, as she may have then known what day may have been her last.
"I wouldn't have wanted for her to know her own mortality, and I wouldn't have wanted her to suffer through the treaments, and I wouldn't have wanted it to be a long process," Susan said.
Laura is survived by her mother, Susan, father, Ron, and two sisters, Sara and Rachel.
When asked what she will miss the most, Laura's sister Sara summed up very simply what many repeated following the dedication, "Everything."