Brooke Thompson was the kind of person people gravitated toward.
The Luverne, Minn., native made sure people knew they were valued and felt welcome, friends said. People just wanted to be around her and she brought everyone together.
Thompson died in a four-vehicle car crash on Interstate 90 on Tuesday morning, July 23, after getting rear-ended by a vehicle while she was stopped in traffic ahead of a construction zone. She was pronounced dead on the scene, according to South Dakota Highway Patrol. Charges are pending against the driver.
The 22-year-old was on her way to an interview for an internship — the next step to fulfill one of her life's missions of helping others through social work. Thompson, a 2018 Southwest Minnesota State University graduate, was planning to attend graduate school at the University of South Dakota in August.
"I don't know what my life will look like without her," said Lexie Severtson, 22, a close friend of Thompson's. "Every event that I'm supposed to have, she's supposed to be there with me. Everyone's struggling with this right now. There's nothing good coming out of this."
Family, friends and the Luverne community are mourning the loss of Thompson. The town gathered on Wednesday night for a memorial in her honor at the Blue Mound Skate Rink, where she figure skated throughout her childhood and continued to coach children as an adult.
Figure skating was one of Thompson's greatest passions. The SMSU graduate had been skating since she was a child. Skating on the ice was almost second nature to her, said Brooke Nattress, 22, one of Thompson's grade school friends.
More than $3,000 has been donated to set up a scholarship fund in her honor through the local skating program.
"Figure skating was the largest part of her life," Nattress said. "We want other figure skaters to think and remember her too when they're skating."
She was considering not going to graduate school because she thought she'd have to give up coaching. She'd been so excited to teach her nieces to skate, Severtson said.
But even more than skating, it was Thompson's love for life that friends remember.
Thompson fell on the ice at a competition once and instead of staying down, or even getting back up, she decided to dance "the worm" on the ice and make light of her mistake, said Brianna Staton, a fellow SMSU dance team member who recalled Thompson telling her the story.
"She really did live life to the fullest — and she had the best heart and impacted so many people," the 23-year-old said. "She planned to help so many more in her profession, but in the short time she was here she was able to do that, too."
Thompson was genuine, uplifting and supportive, Nattress recalled. She helped others become the best version of themselves.
After graduating from SMSU in 2018 and living in Duluth for a time, Thompson moved back home to Luverne. Family was the most important thing to her, Nattress said. She'd regularly come home to spend time with family during college.
"She put her family in front of everything else," Nattress said.
Across social media, friends and family have posted pictures in honor of Thompson. Many have changed their profile pictures to photos of them with her. Severtson shared a photo of the two hugging on the ice rink as elementary school kids.
"For me, it's been nice to see her face all over," Severtson said. "You think it won't hit right away. I miss her already, though. When something like this happens, she's the one I'd talk to about it."
Members of Thompson's 2015 high school graduating class have been recalling her impact on their lives on social media. Specifically, they've recalled her senior quote, "Don't let anyone dull your sparkle," because it applied so well to her character.
"She deserved to have so much more," Severtson said. "We always planned that we were going to be in each other's weddings. Our kids were supposed to grow up together. They were supposed to get married. I think that's one of the things that hurts the most — she'll never be able to have kids when she was so great with them."
With a population of 4,000, the news of Thompson's death has shaken the town in less than a day.
"It's a tragedy," Nattress said. "Everybody's affected. Everybody knows."
The weekend before her death, Thompson had arranged for her high school graduation class to get together and catch up at a bonfire. Severtson wasn't able to make it because of work, but she said she wish she had.
"That's what Brooke always did for us," she said. "She brought us all together and kept us together, so that's the best thing for us to do right now is to honor her by just being together and remembering her."
The memorial was held on Wednesday at the Blue Mound Ice Rink in Luverne.
Visitation will be Sunday, July 28, from 2-6 p.m. at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Luverne, according to Thompson's obituary. Funeral Mass will be on July 29 at 2 p.m. at St. Catherine Catholic Church and burial in the church's cemetery. Visitation will also be one hour prior to the funeral service.