A belated pedestrian obituary

I was looking to give my story on pedestrian crashes this week a human face. I searched the names of a few of the pedestrians who died in the past year in Minnesota.

Louise Laugen was one of those pedestrians. When I searched for information about her, I found out that her death helped bring change to an intersection located near a high-rise apartment building that houses seniors and people with disabilities in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood. A fancy new signal was installed at Park Avenue South and East 27th Street just last month. It has sound for the visually impaired and a countdown timer so people know how much time they have left to get across.

What I didn’t find when I searched Louise Laugen’s name was an obituary. So here it is.

Louise Laugen.JPG

(Louise Laugen died Dec. 30, 2011, after being hit by a car. Photo provided by Laugen’s family.)

Louise Laugen, an artist and active community member, died Dec. 30, 2011, after being hit by a car while walking to her Minneapolis apartment. She was 69.

Laugen was born Aug. 21, 1942, in Slayton, Minn., and graduated from Tracy High School as salutatorian in 1950. She then attended and graduated from the University of Minnesota to become a teacher in suburban Chicago.

She later moved to California and worked as a computer programmer and teacher before earning a degree to become a chiropractor in 1975. Laugen stayed in California until 2002, when she moved back to Minnesota to live with her sister.

About five years later, she moved into her own apartment in the Phillips neighborhood. On the Ebenezer campus, Laugen was a member of the tenant council and attended art and creative writing classes. She also participated in an improvisation group and volunteered at the Gutrhie Theater.

“Louise was a vibrant, creative person,” said Bonnie Clark, one of her friends and neighbors. “She did gorgeous watercolors.”

Laugen’s sister, Ardella Hoffman, said her sister always excelled in school and was bright and well-read. But Hoffman said she didn’t realize until her sister died how talented she was.

“She was very artistic,” Hoffman said, adding that she found many beautiful watercolor paintings while cleaning out her sister’s apartment.

Elizabeth Smith, who knew Laugen from the tenant council in their building, said she’ll remember Laugen as being “extremely intelligent.”

“She was a very accomplished woman, and I think that’s what communities forget. You might have a bunch of senior citizens in a building and they don’t know what accomplished people they’ve been in their past, they just think of them as these old people,” Smith said.

Smith says she’ll always remember Laugen’s creativity and great sense of humor.

“It’s really sad to lose somebody like that,” she said.

Laugen died on a Friday evening at about 6:30 p.m. as she was returning home with some groceries. It was dark, and the intersection at Park Avenue South and East 27th Street had no stoplight.

Years before Laugen died, former neighbor Echo Mitchell worked on a campaign to urge city officials to install a signal there. Mitchell said it’s a shame someone had to die before a stoplight and pedestrian signals were added.

“The conditions at that corner were set up for somebody to get hit. It just happened to be Louise,” Mitchell said.

Following Laugen’s death, the residents in her building revived their campaign for a signal. They held a community meeting in February, and a new signal was installed last month.

Clark said she and other neighbors plan a permanent memorial near the intersection so people remember Laugen.

Laugen is survived by her sister, Ardella Hoffman, a niece and a great-nephew and great-niece.