Friends recall smiles and laughter

Beth Hornby

Ushers hurriedly set up extra chairs as Elizabeth Wencl’s friends and family filed

into Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Minn., on Wednesday afternoon.

A snapshot of “Liz,” arm-in-arm with friends, with whipped cream smeared on their faces, was posted in the church’s foyer. A single red rose lay on a stand next to it.

Monique Matte, a friend who lived with Wencl in Bailey Hall last year, reminisced about the pair’s dorm experiences.

“She loved dill pickle chips. Even though that smell got into everything, and as much as that drove me crazy, I grew to love them as I grew to love her,” Matte said.

Despite the teary eyes, laughter occasionally rippled through the crowd as speakers reminded the service attendees of Wencl’s humorous personality.

“It is that smile and that laugh that we will remember so well,” Wencl’s cousin Kelly Slieter said.

High school friend Drew Nelson said Wencl’s carefree personality is what he will miss the most.

“I love that she didn’t care what people thought of her,” Nelson said. “She made everybody laugh.”

Childhood friend Holly Bettlach agreed. “She always made everyone laugh, that crazy girl,” she said.

Wearing Owatonna High School lettermen jackets, Wencl’s former classmates embraced as a white hearse drove toward St. John Cemetery.

High school friend Deven Cashman said she will always remember Wencl’s antics from their high school trip to France and Spain.

“From then on, if someone ever does something funny and crazy, we say they ‘pulled a Liz,’ ” Cashman said. “She is an adjective in herself.”

The Rev. John Lestock tried to help mourners make sense of the tragedy.

“On a day like today, we are reminded that bad things do happen to good people,”

Lestock said. “On a day like this we ask why, but there is no reason.”