|Birth: ||Feb. 13, 1984|
|Death: ||Apr. 26, 2006|
Laura J. Van Ryn was a student at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana who was killed on Interstate 69 while returning to Taylor from Fort Wayne.
Laura was born to Donald Kurt and Susan Kaye (VanderSchuur) Van Ryn. She lived in Caledonia, Michigan. She graduated from Thornapple Kellogg High School in Middleville, Michigan in 2002. She was studying communications at Taylor University, with a minor in public relations and had recently completed a senior class paper about an Adidas campaign. Laura played forward on a soccer team, played volleyball, ran track and liked to play basketball. She also enjoyed singing and playing the guitar and was deeply religious. Laura is survived by her parents, her sister, Lisa; brothers, Kenny and Mark; boyfriend, Aryn; grandmother, Madelyn VanderSchuur, and many loving aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.
Laura and four other victims in the crash, all passengers in the van, were pronounced dead at the crash scene. Four other occupants in the 1999 Ford school van were injured, as was the truck driver who caused the accident, identified by investigators from the Indiana State Police as a Canton, Mich. resident, 37-year-old Robert F. Spencer. The injured were transported to area hospitals for treatment of injuries.
A news release from the Indiana State Police indicated Spencer's vehicle, which was northbound on I-69 in Grant County around 8:09 p.m., crossed the median and collided with the southbound school van.
Reports indicate the van was returning to the main Taylor campus in Upland from its Fort Wayne campus where the student employees and school food service employees were returning from setting up for a banquet.
The other victims killed in the accident were Laurel Erb, Elizabeth Smith, Bradley Larson and Monica Felver.
Initially, it was thought that another student named Whitney Cerak was killed in the accident, and that Laura had survived. On May 31, 2006 it was determined after suspicions were raised that the girl being treated in a Michigan hospital which everyone believed was Laura, was not Laura, but Whitney, and that Laura had been killed in the accident. Laura was initially buried in Fairview Cemetery in Gaylord, Michigan under the name of Whitney Cerak, but was later buried in Graceland Memorial Park. The story made world news after the identity mix-up was discovered.
In Laura's journal, found by her college roommate, Laura wrote "I know I will most likely get married, be a mom one day, and that is something I wonder about. I also wonder what it would be like to meet Jesus, and how I'm going to die. I don't necessarily think that death is something I'm afraid of. I'm just interested to know."
"For all those times all those years, I could have never imagined that this was the way you'd leave the world. It just hurts a lot," one family member said.
Thank you, Seth Musselman for sponsoring this memorial.
Graceland Memorial Park and Mausoleum
Created by: Tombstoner & Family
Record added: May 31, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 14466476