A new mural at Sequim High School honors 2020 graduate Alissa Lofstrom, who started the mural in 2019 but had to stop due to COVID-19 shutdowns. She died in 2021, but past and current students finished her mural for the Interact Club. (Chelsea Reichner)

A new mural at Sequim High School honors 2020 graduate Alissa Lofstrom, who started the mural in 2019 but had to stop due to COVID-19 shutdowns. She died in 2021, but past and current students finished her mural for the Interact Club. (Chelsea Reichner)

Teens put finishing touches on mural to honor student

Teachers, students remember Lofstrom as welcoming, talented, artistic

SEQUIM — Artistic. Authentic. Welcoming. Wise. Environmentally and socially-minded. Kind words flow from family and friends when they speak about Alissa Lofstrom.

“She was incredibly optimistic and encouraging and talked to anyone and everyone,” said Sequim High School teacher Chelsea Reichner, who advised Lofstrom in the school’s Interact Club, a service club sponsored by Sequim Sunshine Rotary.

“She was just a bright light; somebody who was accountable, someone you could trust, and a true activist that was good at getting people involved,” Reichner said.

In high school, that included a host of activities from Interact to ASB to sports to the No Planet B Club.

The 2020 Sequim High graduate did a lot in her short life and died exploring the world she loved. She slipped on wet rocks in September 2021 near a waterfall in Saguaro National Park in Arizona. She died instantly, family said. She was 19.

Lofstrom, affectionately called “Lissy” by friends and family, was considering a career in marine biology.

“She was always the earthen child,” her mother Mary Lofstrom said. “At Five Acre School, she made sure people didn’t have to wear shoes if they hated wearing them.”

COVID-19 led her to pivot college plans in Hawaii as she wanted to meet people, play music and do more exploring, but being quarantined and doing Zoom classes was not for her, Mary said.

Instead, Alissa opted to take a break from school to travel.

“It was a fantastic thing as far as I’m concerned,” Mary said. “It was like a walk-about.”

Mural begins

COVID-19 left one project of Alissa’s unfinished — a mural that served as part of a beautification effort by Interact Club members to brighten their school hallways.

“The club wanted to bring some color to make it a little less institutional,” Reichner said.

Alissa’s mural would have been the second in Sequim High’s H-building using grant funds for supplies, but the March 2020 shutdown prevented her from finishing it. Club members had voted for Alissa’s sketch in 2019, and while its concept evolved, her basic design elements remained to include mountains and an homage to the club’s annual Walk for Water.

The event sees students carry water from the Dungeness River to Sequim Middle School to symbolize how far women and children must go for water each day. Their efforts raise funds to build wells in underserved areas in Africa.

Mary said Alissa might have mentioned the mural at one point, but she didn’t catch the magnitude of it.

She recalled Alissa doing a chalk mural at Hurricane Coffee Co. one time for fun, and they insisted on paying her a small sum along with some coffee.

“I was always surprised how she got involved in things so deeply, whether with Interact or Winter Wishes or International Club,” Mary said.

“At home, she didn’t toot her own horn ... that’s why I was surprised to learn how involved she was and when people spoke of her. They said she’d talk to everybody and anybody.

“There’s no cliquishness about Lissy.”

Alissa reached out to the ostracized and enjoyed painting, being outside and hanging out in coffee shops, Mary said.

“We appreciated so much hearing from so many people about her impact,” she said. “It was so wonderful for me, her sisters and dad. It’s really lovely.”

Work continues

For a few years, the mural remained unfinished.

Reichner initially approached Rae Douglas, a 2023 Sequim High School graduate who knew Alissa through Five Acre School, to help finish the mural last school year.

“I loved Alissa and the thought of being able to finish something that she had started meant the world to me,” Douglas said.

“(Alissa) just had this awesome impact on everyone she came in contact with (and) was just such a passionate person in everything, especially in Interact Club,” she said.

Carmen Maxwell, a Sequim High School Advanced Placement Studio Art teacher, offered the back of her classroom for Douglas, friends and fellow Interact members to work on the mural during her sixth period class.

“She was absolutely enthused by the idea,” Douglas said of Maxwell.

“And that mural is actually huge, so it really, genuinely took up the entire back of her class, so that was amazing. She made this possible. She’s awesome.”

Douglas said she used acrylic paint and chalk using inspiration from the film “Ponyo” so lines conveyed motion in the hills and water, she said.

“Alissa had drawn the mountain line, so I simply followed what she had in mind,” Douglas said.

“I wanted it to be both of our visions; I was simply just taking it a step further and adding color.”

The mural is two large boards, and despite working on the project for an extended time, Douglas and friends were not able to finish it by the end of the 2022-23 school year.

Finishing touches

Maxwell said Sequim junior Melia Nelson carried the torch for Alissa and Douglas to finish the mural in March.

Nelson, also an Interact Club member, said she tried to keep Alissa’s and Douglas’ styles intact to finish up most of the left panel and paint Alissa’s portrait in the “A” of “Interact.”

She didn’t know Alissa personally, but she used a photo reference from Reichner of Alissa from a Walk for Water event where she painted her own water jugs to fill at the Dungeness River.

Reichner said Maxwell felt Nelson’s style would be conducive to Douglas’ work while capturing Alissa’s style and honoring her, too.

Sequim School District maintenance staff placed the mural on April 17.

Maxwell said all the students involved did a great job depicting Alissa’s vision.

“My heart is warmed by this project being a memorial to her as well,” she said.

“(Alissa) was a vivacious young lady with captivating energy that was inspirational to so many people. It is great to see that she is still inspiring us.”

Reichner said the artists “put their hearts and souls into it”

Mary said she loves the colors of the mural.

“It looks fantastic,” she said. “With the mountains, sea and prairie, I’m really impressed.”

Interact Club follows the motto “Service above Self,” and Douglas said Alissa was very selfless.

“I hope she doesn’t mind us dedicating the mural to her, but I know she’d be glad we finally finished it,” Douglas said.

Looking back at Alissa’s four years with the club, Reichner said she was the “glue” for fellow students.

“She really embodied the principles of thinking about what your community needs and approaching problem solving in creative ways,” she said.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of newspapers Peninsula News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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