Lori’s angels: New Mark Twain reader board a gift of gratitude from Lori’s family

May 2011 Posted in People

By Kristine Thomas

Lori Knorr never saw her oldest daughter Kirstin graduate from Willamette University or her youngest daughter Lindly marry Andrew Watters. She died of a brain tumor on Dec. 3, 2004 when Kirstin was 19 and Lindly, 16.

Although she wasn’t there for many big and small moments in her daughters’ lives, Lori died knowing they would receive love and care from her friends and family.

A teacher’s assistant at Mark Twain Middle School, Lori was known for lending a hand or helping a friend whenever she could. The kindness she gave throughout her life was returned to her family both during her illness and years later.

Sandi Wilkins, Lori’s mom, refers to all the people who cared for her daughter and her granddaughters as “Lori’s angels.” There is Sue Roessler, who has become like a mother and a dear friend to Kirstin; Amy Ostlund, who was Lori’s closest friend and helped out in numerous ways along with her husband, Dan; Sandy Stearns, who would sing to Lori, paint her nails and bring meals; Neal and Teresa Kuenzi and Jordan and Krystine Bielemeier, who took Lindly in when Lori was ill, and Denise and Rob Totland, who took Lindly into their home after Lori died, Sandi said.

“There were many other town people who brought food and spent time with Lori,” Sandi said.“Lori’s friends were always there with their support.”

To thank the community, Lindly Watters, Kirstin Heydel and their grandparents Sandi and Larry Wilkins have contributed $5,000 for a reader board at Mark Twain Middle School. A plaque will read, “In loving memory of Lori Wilkins Knorr for her unconditional love and passion for youth.”

At her mother’s funeral, Lindly sang the song “Legacy.”

“I believe her legacy was love, plain and simple unconditional love,” Watters, now 22, said. “She taught my sister and I to truly love without conditions or motives or hindrances. The life lessons that I have learned along the way and continually learn from my mom is that some people are harder to love than others but through the power and strength of God you can love anyone!”

Lindly’s storyLindly Watters
Stationed in Naples, Italy, Lindly Watters, 22, is an information’s systems technician for the U.S. Navy. Her husband, Andrew, works on the USS Mount Whitney.

When she and Andrew complete their enlistments in three years, they plan to return to the states. Lindly wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology and work toward being a high school counselor. Her husband is working toward a degree in history and teaching.

When Lindly reflects on her mother’s illness, she remembers coming home to an answering machine overflowing with messages from concerned family members and friends.

“I think of the women who stepped up and offered advice and comfort to my sister and I; (we) were so
scared,” Lindly said. “I think of the women who came over to paint my mom’s nails and give her a sense of dignity and normalcy in such a tough time.”

Lindly is thankful for those who provided her and her sister with support, making sure they both had a bright future.

“The love and generosity is what Silverton is all about,” Lindly said. “I miss everyone dearly and will never be able to repay all of the people that took such good care of me. There are too many to number!”

Kirstin’s storyKirstin Heydel
A youth services coordinator and youth advocate for Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service, Kirstin Heydel knows she probably wouldn’t be where she is today if it weren’t for the support of the Silverton community.

From advising her throughout college to paying for a graduation trip to Europe, Kirstin is beyond grateful to
her friends in Silverton.

As a child, Kirstin remembers her mom warmly welcoming adults and youth into their home and volunteering where and when needed. Reflecting on what her mom taught her, she believes her career choice was influenced by her mother.

“My mom always stood up to injustices and that is one of the most important things I learned from her.  My Mom passed down so many things including a heart for social issues and carrying for others,” Kirstin said.

“She taught me to put others first, just as she always did.”

While advocating for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking can be stressful, Kirstin said, “I love what I am doing and I really think I am just where God wants me to be.”

It gladdens Kirstin’s heart that her family is helping to donate a reader board to the school.

“My mom loved that school and she loved helping people,” Kirstin said. “It will be like a little part of my mom is there.”

Kirstin cherishes the memories she has of her mom from attending all of her school and sporting events to the tradition of making Valentine boxes.  There aren’t words to describe how difficult it was for her to watch her mom suffer from a brain tumor, she said.

“She held on a long time for my sister and me” Kirstin said. “I saw how she suffered and told her it was OK to let go.”

Although there have been difficult times dealing with her mom’s death, Kirstin said she wouldn’t change a moment of it because it made her who she is today.

“My mom prepared me for each bump in the road and I am much stronger. I can handle what comes my way,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier today and I am thankful for the support of my friends and family. My mom was an amazing, amazing person who gave so much to many and she took care of her girls.”

Larry and Sandi WilkinsLarry Wilkins and his daughter Lori Knorr
Living at Crooked River Ranch in Central Oregon, Larry and Sandi Wilkins said the reader board is a way to honor the town that gave so much to their daughter and grandchildren.

Looking back on her daughter’s illness and the whirlwind of women helping out, Sandi Wilkins is still amazed.

“So many women went out of their way to help,” Sandi said. “Lori’s friends are amazing gals who just jumped in and helped.” She’s thankful to all  who stayed in close contact with her granddaughters.

“What I hope people realize is that even the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference,” Sandi said.

“If everybody had people like those in Silverton that helped my daughter, life would be so much better.”

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