By Monica Fiore
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – “She was a free spirit. She just loved life” is how Steve Hoover described his daughter, Laura.
In 2016, Laura Elizabeth Hoover was a Burrell High School student, but she wasn’t any ordinary student.
“She got it,” said Burrell High School World Cultures teacher, Adam Rossi. “She understood what life was about. She was an extremely old soul. She was mature beyond her years. She saw the big picture with everything. She was a force, a quiet force. She was the embodiment of everything that is good about humanity and that can’t be lost. We talked about everything; environment, politics, music, art, religion, spirituality. You name the big topic and we discussed it at length. You can tiptoe around those topics with other students her age, but she really had an understanding of those because she was well-read and she was well-versed; she knew what she was talking about.”
Hoover was preparing to graduate that May when tragedy struck. Hoover tragically passed away May 26, 2016. She was found dead in her car the early hours of that morning.
“We’re not sure what happened and we’ll probably never know,” said Laura’s father, Steve Hoover. “I’m still in shock. That’s the only word, but it doesn’t do it justice. It’s taken me a long time to cope.”
What was even more tragic was Hoover was to graduate along with the rest of her graduating class at Burrell High School later on that day.
“I was already awake so I knew I wasn’t dreaming,” said Rossi. “It was sort of a ‘holy hell’ moment.”
During the graduation ceremony, Hoover’s seat was decorated with flowers, an afghan, and pictures of her and family and friends. The calling of Hoover’s name during the graduation ceremony was not met with a moment of silence, but with a standing and clapping ovation. Following the graduation ceremony, the graduates stood around the flagpole with candles to remember Hoover.
The autopsy report revealed Laura died as a result of a prescription drug overdose.
“She took Prozac for depression and she had somehow gotten Tramadol from her aunt’s house and that combination caused her heart to stop beating,” said Hoover. “The doctor said if she had taken anything else but Prozac, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”
“The story is being mistold time and time again to the point where if you hear it so many times, you just believe it, which isn’t the case,” Rossi said. “Laura was mixing two prescription medications. It’s as simple as that. It wasn’t like she was in a back alley somewhere, shooting up.”
Rossi went on to say, “This is something that can and does happen to anybody. I’m hopeful that the stigma and the stereotypes and finger-pointing at people who are impacted by this is going to subside and that our society is going to become more open to the fact that this can and does happen anywhere to anyone and you’ll see a collective push by our society to do something about this.”
In honor of Hoover’s memory, “her family has started the ‘Laura Hoover It’s All Good Foundation’, which is going to be a multi-faceted approach towards remembering her life and continuing on with things that were important to her,” said Rossi. “One of the aspects is they are looking to procure land somewhere in the area so they can build a dog park. That was important to Laura; her dogs. The second aspect is a travel scholarship for students either at Burrell or applicants in the immediate area if there are none at Burrell. They are looking to pick a non-traditional student to award with a scholarship to travel abroad in the summertime to pretty much where anywhere they want to go. A third aspect is looking to involve students at Burrell and Penn State New Kensington in hands-on learning experiences that are going to hopefully clue them in as to the reality and dangers of climate change.”
“The kids are going to build a solar-based air conditioner for Adam’s room,” said [Steve] Hoover. “It was extremely hot and miserable last year. The point is to teach these kids how to recognize a problem and solve it.”
“She doesn’t want us to mourn, she doesn’t want us to be sad,” Rossi said. “She wants us to take the work that she was doing and carry the torch and move on with it. The best way that you can remember someone and keep someone’s memory alive is to not only follow in their footsteps, but continue on with the path that they were taking.”
And carrying the torch, we will do to remember Laura Hoover and the beautiful person she truly was.
“You don’t want her story to be lumped in with everybody else’s because if it’s lumped in with everybody else’s, then she becomes a statistic and she’s anything but a statistic,” said Rossi. “She’s anything but a number on a page or on a stat sheet.
For more information on how to get involved with the “Laura Hoover It’s All Good Foundation”, please go to lhiagf.org.