Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: Layton Fossum January 16, 2015

Portrait #3: Layton Fossum, the ultimate optimist

Layton Fossum posed for me at the August 2010 Cancer Stroll.

Layton Fossum posed for me at the August 2010 Cancer Stroll.

When I met Layton Fossum 4 ½ years ago at the American Cancer Society Straight River Stroll, I looked into the face of an optimist.

The rural Northfield man, despite a difficult struggle with neck and head cancer (the words he used), was upbeat and positive, living life to the fullest.

It was obvious, from looking at him, that he’d been through a lot, that cancer had taken a physical toll. He had no facial nerves on his right side. He’d undergone reconstructive surgery on his drooping face. He’d lost the hearing in his reshaped right ear. Gold weighted his right eyelid.

But Layton didn’t dwell on any of this.

He lived. And he lived a good life. A joyful life.

Layton died on Monday at age 52, losing his long battle with cancer. He will be buried on Saturday.

But his positivity lives on. In condolences posted on the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home website, friend after friend writes of an upbeat man of faith with a beautiful smile, a great sense of humor, a generous and enthusiastic spirit, the type of person we all wish we could be, but likely aren’t.

My favorite comment comes from the folks at Full Service Battery & Salvage in Farmington. (Layton collected and sold scrap metal besides working numerous other jobs.) They wrote:

Layton was our favorite customer. His positive energy always blasted through our doors like hope! You couldn’t be down with Layton around. We will miss him!

That we should all blast through life with hope, like Layton.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “Minnesota Faces: Layton Fossum”

  1. Almost Iowa Says:

    I cannot remember where I heard this, perhaps it was at a fundraiser, but someone said, “the struggle against cancer is not whether it takes my life, it’s whether it takes my spirit.”

    One can say that of just about anything that tests us.

  2. randy Says:

    Layton’s open friendliness, positive attitude, and quick wit will be missed by all who knew him. A huge loss for everyone in the Northfield area.

    Until we meet again, RIP Layton.

  3. 01rena Says:

    Layton is still very much a handsome man with a kind face. His “battle wounds” only make him more manly and attractive. Much like how gold must be exposed to fire to become pure, and then pounded repeatedly with force, to be molded into something unique and priceless. Smiles and blessings to you, Layton!

    • Your comment is poetically beautiful, Rena. Thank you.

      • 01rena Says:

        It’s I who should thank you, Audrey, for the subjects you journal. What you write about, how you write it, causes the reader to stop and reflect. We are drawn into your thoughts, which are centered on knowing and appreciating the common man, as well as, finding simple joys in life. You have retained the type of joy and wonder children have when they spot a bug ambling across the sidewalk… They are spell-bound with curiosity and awe in the simple things most folks don’t notice… Thank you, Audrey, for helping us readers to “Stop and smell the roses” with you!

      • OK, now you’re making me cry. Thank you for the sweetness of your words.

  4. Jackie Says:

    i know this is probably not what I should be saying but my first reaction to this post is…. I-HATE-CANCER!!! Now that that’s been said, thank you for sharing Layton’s courageous and upbeat-self despite this horrific disease…. So many affected…and so many dying too young. UGH

  5. Beautiful – A Positive Force that Will Shine Down On Everyone – Such a Celebration for Life – Love that 🙂

  6. Littlesundog Says:

    How interesting is it that many things I’ve read this morning seem to be saying the same thing. Layton’s inner spirit beams in that photograph! His “voice and cause” has traveled the world thanks to you, connecting his story with the masses. A Ram Dass quote that I read somewhere this morning came back to me as I read your words, Audrey. “We are all just walking each other home”. Layton has shown us the way…

  7. hotlyspiced Says:

    It’s amazing how some people, despite all their adversity, are able to still be so positive. I’m so sorry to hear Layton has passed away. I went to the funeral of a dear friend’s mother a few days ago. She had motor neurone disease. A few months ago when she had to be tube-fed, could barely swallow, had lost a lot of independence and could no longer eat or drink, my friend said to her, ‘Mum, isn’t this just too much; don’t you want to just give up and stop trying?’ and her mother had a wicked sense of humour and said, ‘No way; I’m living the dream’. As a person who lived her life loving Jesus, we’re all at peace knowing she’s now with Him xx

  8. Beth Ann Says:

    What a lovely man and what a legacy he has left to so many. It amazes me how someone who has faced such hardship was still vibrant in life and shared that with others. I am sure that those who loved him will miss him immensely but what a testimony he leaves behind. Thanks for sharing him with us.

  9. […] in Wisconsin. She includes photos of people, people who may otherwise may be unnoticed, people like Layton Fossum whose positive attitude inspired those around him during his too short life. Audrey’s posts […]

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