Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering Brittney at a rural Faribault cemetery May 5, 2015

HUNDREDS OF TIMES during the past 30 years, I’ve passed North Grove Cemetery along busy Minnesota Highway 3 between Faribault and Northfield.

The entrance to North Grove Cemetery, which sits along Minnesota Highway 3 north of Faribault. The building once housed a church.

The entrance to North Grove Cemetery, which sits along Minnesota Highway 3 north of Faribault. The building once housed a church.

Not once have I stopped to explore this final resting place sheltered by trees butting a small white church. You know how it is. If you pass something often enough, you fail to notice it after awhile.

The flash of red that caught my eye.

The flash of red that caught my eye.

That is until recently, when a flash of red in a corner of the cemetery caught my eye. My husband, whose vision is far superior to mine, managed to read the words—WE LOVE u BRittnEY—on the handcrafted sign cornered with four red hearts.

There was no time to tour the graveyard that day. But on a recent Saturday, we stopped.

The memorial to Brittney Landsverk.

The memorial to Brittney Landsverk.

In this small Norwegian cemetery, I found an abundance of markers for Oles and Sophias who died long ago. But my focus was on the corner memorial created for 20-year-old Brittney Rose Landsverk. Five years have passed already since her April 2, 2010, tragic death flooded my community of Faribault with grief.

Brittney drowned after the young man she was dating drove a car in which she was a passenger into the nearby Cannon River. Mitchell Bongers would later admit to drinking, plead guilty to criminal vehicular homicide and receive a four-year prison sentence.

A loving, permanent tribute to Brittney.

A loving, permanent tribute to Brittney.

I cannot fathom the agony Ron and Kelly Landsverk endured while searchers looked for their daughter’s body in the twisting Cannon River. Eighty-seven days of wondering and waiting. And then, a life-time of grief at the loss of their only child.

Words of love for Brittney expressed.

Words of love for Brittney expressed.

I don’t know the Landsverk family. But I am a mother and a part of the Faribault community. That is enough to connect me to them. When a child dies in such a senseless and tragic way, the impact is far-reaching. It touches all of us.

Visitors to Brittney's memorial can write a message on the bench.

Visitors to Brittney’s memorial can write a message on the bench.

Visiting Brittney’s memorial, I got a sense of who she was, what she loved, how much she was loved/is still loved and missed.

Items attached to a fence  reveal more about Brittney.

Items attached to a fence reveal more about Brittney.

She was a young woman who apparently liked Cheetos and Mountain Dew, Hello Kitty and butterflies.

Brittney's memorial is next to her grandparents' grave.

Brittney’s memorial is next to her grandparents’ grave.

Born in South Korea, Brittney Rose arrived in her parents’ arms on May 1, 1990. She is named after her paternal grandmother, Rose. Brittney’s memorial is located next to Rose and husband Kenneth’s gravesite.

Roses abound, including these on the fence.

Roses abound, including these on the fence.

Roses grace the memorial. The flowers seem symbolic beyond honoring Brittney Rose’s name. To me they also represent that adage, “Stop and smell the roses.” We never know when the roses may cease to bloom, when their sweet scent will merely linger in the memory of our days.

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Click here to read my first post on North Grove Cemetery.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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14 Responses to “Remembering Brittney at a rural Faribault cemetery”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a sweet post. Having just lost a dear friend in a car accident this is a little to fresh for me—-it is sad anytime anyone dies unexpectedly but even more so when it is someone so young. Rest in Peace, Brittney.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful young woman. It makes me think of my Brittany. It also reminded me of my Sister’s memorials.

  3. Jackie Says:

    Another senseless death for a young girl who should have had many years ahead of her…. Sweet tribute!

  4. Oh, boy. Senseless death is right. That you found words to talk about this is a gift. Hug your kids. Right now.

  5. Don Says:

    Wow great post! We get so tied up in our day to day lives that we fail to appreciate the best things in life. I will remember to “smell the roses” more often!

  6. Sue Ready Says:

    What a touching tribute to keep Brittney’ s memory alive in your community. Hopefully you are able to share this with her family?

  7. Kelly Landsverk Says:

    Audrey – a friend who reads your blog daily was kind enough to let me know about your wonderful tribute to our daughter, Brittney. I printed out the story so I can keep it forever and told my family and many friends about the post. Ron and I were touched beyond words and brought to tears while reading your story. We continue to be amazed at the impact Brittney’s life and death has had on people – even complete strangers like you. Thank you so much for putting this story about her together and highlighting this quaint, special little cemetery. We love her little corner of the world where she rests in peace with her grandpa and grandma. We visit the cemetery often and love to see when someone has visited and added a treasure in her memory. We miss her terribly… tributes like this, though, help keep her memory alive and that’s what we strive for daily. Thank you again and God bless you.

    • Oh, Kelly, I am honored to have written this post about your beloved Brittney. As a mother of three, I know how deep and strong a mother’s love runs and I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of your loss. My heart just aches thinking of the emptiness and pain and sorrow you endure every single day. Your family has made a deep impact on this community and beyond. We all felt like we knew Brittney even if we didn’t. She was our daughter, our niece, our sister…

      May you always hold her love and memory deep within your heart. And may God continue to give you strength and a sense of peace.


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