Brooke Smith’s friends remember her as a kind-hearted, reliable, caring soul who loved soccer, life, and cats of all kinds. Smith, 22 and an Emporia State senior psychology major, died in a head-on collision in Marion County, Kansas, last Saturday. Smith was a former defender on the Emporia State women’s soccer team.

“She was a kind person,” said Jordyn Showers, Smith’s friend since 5th grade at Spring Hill, Kansas.

“She had a big heart,” Showers, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, said Tuesday. “She was very creative. She had a very high (desire) to complete her studies in higher education...She cared a lot about her friends and she did a lot of volunteer work.”

Smith met Kylie Mank, a graduate student at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, when they both attended Independence Community College about five years ago.

“It’s just kind of hard to put it in words,” Mank said. “Her mom (Cyndi Smith) has been reaching out to us and taking care of us. You can really see the similarities between Brooke and her mom, because Brooke would always be there for us, no matter what was going on with her. Brooke was just the best friend that any of us could have asked for.”

Ian Thomson, the head women’s soccer coach at Tabor College, in Hillsboro, Kansas, met Smith when he recruited her to play on the soccer at ICC.

“She was the friend of everyone on the team,” Thomson said. “She had the personality that latched on to everyone on the team...If you met Brooke, you remembered it. She always had fun.”

Thomson remembered Smith as someone who was always dedicated and passionate about soccer and really cared about other people.

“My favorite story about Brooke was the day she dyed her hair pink,” Thomson said. “She didn’t mean to dye it pink. She had really beautiful blonde hair that everyone was envious of and her mother loved and I remember the day she came to practice with her hair pink and everyone said ‘Your mom is going to kill you’ and she said ‘I know.’ It was just really funny.”

Abby Johnson, a senior psychology major at Tulsa Community College and Jesica Hernandez, a senior sociology major at the University of North Texas, spent their first semester of college at ICC with Smith and Mank, where they played soccer together.

“We were roommates in college and we (Smith and I) hated sleeping alone,” Johnson said. “We pushed our beds together and called it ‘mega bed.’”

The four were inseparable and soon transferred to Coffeyville Community College together, according to Mank.

One weekend, they broke the dorm rules and bought a pet cat for Smith.

“Brooke was like “guys I really want a cat’ and we were like ‘...why not?’” Hernandez said. “We literally drove to the sketchiest part of Missouri and bought a cat from someone in a trailer for five dollars. We ended up keeping the cat for two weeks before we got caught, so we couldn’t keep Taco. Brooke called him ‘Taquito’ because he was little. We still, to this day, talk about it.”

Smith was from Spring Hill, Kansas, and worked at Bruff’s Sports Bar and Grill in Emporia, according to KVOE.

“She was just a leader, all around,” Mank said. “Everyone loved her. She was just a bright personality that made everyone feel included. If you look at her Facebook, you can really see that every person she came in contact with is grieving. She touched so many lives.”

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call around 8:15 Saturday night on K150 and found that a Cadillac, heading east, had crossed the centerline and hit a Nissan, heading west, in a head on collision, according to authorities.

Smith was driving the Nissan and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office. Smith’s body was taken to the Zeiner Funeral Home in Marion.

The driver of the Cadillac was Avery Stalford, 15, who was riding with Jessica Stalford, 36, both from Richmond, Kansas. The driver of the Cadillac had to be extricated from the vehicle, the release said.

The Stalfords were transported to St. Francis Hospital in Wichita for injuries.

At this time, it is unknown what caused the Cadillac to cross the center lane, according to authorities. The crash remains under investigation.

“Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to Brooke’s family and her many friends during this very difficult time,” said ESU President Allison Garrett in a statement. “Words are so difficult to find that express our thoughts right now.”

Garrett encouraged students to reach out to one another and offer support.

“Our campus and the extended Hornet family is a community of caring, compassion, strength and support,” Garrett said in the statement. “In addition, counselors from the Student Wellness Center are available for the campus community. They already met with some students, faculty and staff who knew Brooke.”

Showers, the childhood friend, is assisting Cyndi and Steve Smith, Brooke’s mother and father, in planning the funeral. Showers said she would like everyone attending to consider it a celebration of Brooke’s life.

There will be a visitation from 5 to 8 p.m. today and a service at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at Grace Community Church of the Nazarene, 19300 South 169 Highway, in Spring Hill.

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