PULLMAN – Kind, sensitive, intelligent, dedicated and beautiful were among the adjectives family members, friends and coaches used to describe Lauren McCluskey late Sunday afternoon.
They were among the hundreds of mourners who turned out to remember the 21-year-old University of Utah track and field athlete and Pullman High School graduate during her celebration of life at the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Event Center in Pullman. McCluskey was shot and killed by her former boyfriend last month on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, said her daughter was special from the beginning.
“She was driven, smart, athletically gifted and beautiful,” said Jill, who stood next to her husband, Matt. “She was hard-working and resilient.”
She said she told her daughter her sensitive nature and empathy were her superpowers.
“These abilities allowed her to really see people and show kindness to them,” Jill said.
She said she is proud of how her daughter lived her life.
“Every day right now is painful for us because I know I can’t pick up the phone and call you,” Jill said. “I can’t go on mom jogs with you when you come home from college.”
She said she was looking forward to seeing Lauren’s beautiful life unfold.
“I will let your light shine through me every day with kindness, empathy and inclusion and work toward that,” Jill said. “And I encourage everyone else to let her light shine through you in the same way.”
A large photo of McCluskey, her blue PHS letterman jacket, red Utah jacket and other memorabilia were displayed near the front of the stage Sunday.
Some of McCluskey’s friends reflected on her love for singing, dancing, animals – especially cats – and even her joy in unplanned trips to Target.
A friend said one of the greatest nights of her life was the night before McCluskey died. It was filled with singing and dancing, she said.
Another friend said her favorite thing about McCluskey was her laugh, noting she would laugh with her whole body and without a care in the world. She said the two would laugh themselves to sleep often.
Others noted her great success as an athlete and a student.
“Lauren set high goals and expectations for herself and was always willing to work hard to meet them,” a family friend said. “She was surely destined to do great things in this world.”
Another family friend said McCluskey was drawn to deeper things in life, like philosophy, ethics and writing.
“She brought only good to this world,” she said.
One of McCluskey’s former Utah teammates said McCluskey was reserved when it came to speaking about herself, but she always wanted to know more about others.
“She had such a fun personality that would light up everyone around her,” the teammate said.
She said McCluskey was dedicated to school, athletics, her faith and friends.
“Lauren was a teammate that everyone loves to have,” the teammate said. “She was always dependable. She was almost always early – sometimes a little too early – but that just made her Lauren.”
Utah track and field coach Kyle Kepler used terms like genuine, sweet, respected and coachable to describe McCluskey. He said she had a relentless determination to improve and achieve excellence each and every day.
“She was always a great teammate,” Kepler said. “She always led by example and she cared about everyone every single day. Lauren was most definitely the person who looked in the mirror and asked, ‘How can I be a better person today than I was yesterday?’ And then she went out and tried to find that answer every day.”
University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said McCluskey was exactly the type of student who makes any university campus vibrant.
She said it was an honor to posthumously award a communication degree to McCluskey.
Watkins said a scholarship fund established in McCluskey’s name has collected more than enough money to be endowed already – nearly $50,000 and counting, with contributions from all over the world. Watkins said the university will be able to provide the first scholarships in McCluskey’s name next fall.
“Lauren will always be remembered at the University of Utah,” Watkins said.
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