Jasmine Blue’s eyes welled up with tears as she laughed Wednesday afternoon, remembering the time she and Rebecca Kroeger went to Les Miserables for an impromptu movie date last year at the University of South Dakota.
Blue, a sophomore at USD, recalled how the two used to dance together. Or how, without fail, Kroeger would sneak snacks and Skype in the math emporium, no matter how behind in her homework she was.
Friends, professors, classmates, counselors and other community members gathered Wednesday afternoon in the Muenster University Center to mourn the loss and remember the spunk of Kroeger, 19, who died Tuesday in a car accident in Luverne, Minn., around 9 a.m.
Kroeger, of Parkston, S.D., was headed south on Highway 23 near Beaver Creek, Minn., when her 2005 Chevy Malibu collided with a freight van in the northbound lane, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. The driver of the freight van was not injured.
Blue, who said she woke up Tuesday morning thinking it was just a dream, attended Wednesday’s service to help work through the loss of her friend. Blue said her roommate told her the news at 2 a.m. She was awake, crying all night.
“I just wanted to be here as a shoulder to cry on, maybe get some closure, I don’t know,” Blue said. “I just knew I had to be here.”
One of the last times Blue heard from Rebecca was a text saying, “Today’s the day…” with a kissing emoji. Blue said Kroeger was always trying to get her to dye her hair blue, because she thought it would be hilarious.
“I would always laugh and say, ‘You’re crazy,'” Blue said.
Blue said she loved Kroeger’s energy, free spiritedness and rebellious streak. She said Kroeger didn’t care what other people thought, she was comfortable being herself.
“She was a very eccentric person,” she said.
Deb Brockberg, director of the Student Counseling Center, said she didn’t know what to expect at the gathering. She was very quickly taken aback by all the lives Kroeger touched, with a room so full of emotion and sadness turned into a celebration of life, she said.
“That heaviness kind of subsided in some ways,” Brockberg said.
Brockberg never got the chance to meet Kroeger, but she now wishes she had. She said she didn’t have to know her to be touched by the gathering.
Charismatic, free-spirited, courageous, fantastic and confident were just a few of the many words used to describe Kroeger by those who attended Wednesday’s service. At one point, Kim Grieve, dean of students, encouraged everyone to continue to share Kroeger’s “bright light.”
Sophomore Hailey Jeratowski first met Kroeger through a mutual friend her freshman year. She said she came to the service because she felt the need to stress to everyone just how good of a person Kroeger was. Jeratowski said Kroeger’s presence alone was enough to lighten the mood in a room.
“I’ve never met a more charismatic, outgoing, energetic girl,” Jeratowski said. “Everyone was so drawn to her because she was such a cool, genuine person.”
Jeratowski only saw Kroeger once this year. Since she was in class when Kroeger passed by, she didn’t have the chance to go say hi to her. Now, Jeratowski said she wishes she had.
“Take every moment every day because this stuff does happen,” Jeratowski said.
Funeral services for Kroeger are scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Salem United Church of Christ in Parkston, S.D. Visitation is Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the same location. A prayer service will be held at 7 p.m.
(First-year Laura Weiss talks about a fond memory of Rebecca Kroeger, who died Monday in a car accident in Minnesota, as Evan Murtha holds back tears during a memorial service Wednesday afternoon held upstairs in the Muenster University Center. Both Weiss and Murtha went to high school with Kroeger. Malachi Petersen | The Volante)