‘God gained a beautiful angel’

Published 11:18 pm Saturday, February 9, 2013

Devin Taylor comforts Amanda LeGrand’s best friend, Alyssa Deforest, during a candlelight vigil outside King’s Fork High Saturday evening to remember LeGrand, a senior who died inexplicably on Wednesday morning.

Classmates of Amanda LeGrand, a King’s Fork High School senior who four days ago died suddenly and inexplicably, shared memories of the popular teen during an emotional vigil outside the school Saturday evening.

“Driving around (together) in my car blaring country music,” is how Alyssa Deforest remembered her best friend.

The pair met 12 years ago at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary. “She was just your all-around country girl,” Deforest said, adding, “God gained a beautiful angel.”

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LeGrand, 17, will be buried Tuesday morning in the church cemetery at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Holy Cross, Iowa, where her mother’s family is from.

Speaking on the phone Friday from the small farming community in the northeast of the state, one of Amanda’s three brothers, 22-year-old Nathan LeGrand, said their mother Kathy LeGrand was the last to speak to Amanda before her death early Wednesday.

Saturday’s candlelight vigil gave King’s Fork High students a chance to share their many fond memories of Amanda LeGrand, a senior who died inexplicably on Wednesday morning.

The exchange of words occurred about 6 a.m. as Amanda lay in her bed with sleep still in her eyes.

“My mother went in there to wake her up,” Nathan LeGrand said. “She said, ‘Hey, I’m going walking.’

“She (Amanda) said, ‘OK mom – love you.’ Mom told she loved her back, and she left.”

At 7a.m, Nathan LeGrand said, one of his brothers went into Amanda’s room to wake her up. “She wouldn’t get up,” he said. “My mom came home, (she) started doing CPR, called 911 and the ambulance came.”

Amanda was pronounced dead at Obici Hospital shortly afterward.

Deforest said Amanda seemed fine when they were together on Tuesday night. Nathan LeGrand said his little sister hadn’t been sick. “She was perfectly fine,” he said.

An autopsy was unable to pinpoint how Amanda died, and results from toxicology tests will take six to 12 weeks, her brother said.

While her mother is from Iowa, Amanda’s father is from Missouri, Nathan LeGrand said. Amanda and her three brothers were all born in Virginia Beach, before the Navy family came to Suffolk in 2000, he added.

“She had the most beautiful smile,” Nathan LeGrand said, adding the family drove overnight to Dyersville through rain and snow.

“She was going to graduate with honors. … She had been accepted to attend Radford University and wanted to become an RN (registered nurse).”

Scores of King’s Fork High seniors — and some students from other grade levels — as well as many of Amanda’s teachers, gathered for the vigil at the front of the school Saturday evening.

Principal Suzanne Rice said only a few students had availed themselves of the extra support services the district deployed at King’s Fork High after news of the death rocked the school.

“Honestly, I think social media helped in this situation, because students came together (online) really quickly — the night of her death — and said they wanted to do a vigil,” Rice said.

Candles at the vigil weren’t complimentary; they cost $1. Proceeds will help buy a memorial bench for the school campus and help the LeGrand family.

The vigil opened to one of Amanda’s favorite songs, “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line. It was one of several country tunes played.

Vigil organizer Fletcher Stephens invited students to come behind the microphone and share their memories of Amanda. Dozens of heartfelt anecdotes drew a portrait of a girl who never frowned and who touched many lives in various ways, all of them positive.

“It’s awesome that she still left a footprint in each of our lives,” Noah Johnson said.

Flowers for Amanda LeGrand can be sent to the Holy Cross Catholic Church, Holy Cross, IA 52053.