WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) - The family of a former Winona State student who lost her life in a tragic workplace accident is making sure their daughter will always be remembered.
Brooke Baures died in December 2014 when she got caught in a food elevator while working at a restaurant in Fountain City.
On Sunday, her family honored her memory with a butterfly release and the dedication of a new memorial garden on Winona State's campus.
The garden includes a brick walkway and multiple stone benches outside of the gymnasium, where she spent much of her time as a member of the university's gymnastics team.
"Brooke left us all way too early, and this space here has really been a way for former gymnasts, (and) for the rest of our community to see her impact that she had here, and it's really a way to honor her legacy for generations to come," said Winona State Director of Development Robert Christiano.
Family and friends say they'll always remember Brooke's smile and personality. Because of that, the phrase "Smile On" became a way for everyone who knew her to come together after tragedy.
"It just came up right after she died, just to keep smiling," said gymnastics teammate Veronica Patterson. "Her smile was what she was, she was always smiling, and it was so bright and so contagious."
The garden contains a memorial with the "Smile On" phrase as a reminder of perseverance.
"That's what she would want us to do, is smile on and continue to move forward, live life to the fullest and have that heart," said Brooke's mom, Kerrie Baures.
It was an emotional afternoon for the family, but they say they're comforted by the fact that the garden is bringing people from across the area together in her memory.
"Bringing people together was always Brooke's big thing," said Kerrie Baures. "She loved to bring people together, that's just what she did naturally. So for us to see the communities come together, from Fountain City, from Winona, from Cameron, Chetek, from Rice Lake, all these communities coming together, it means the world to us."
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