Dec. 1, 1997-July 11, 2022
Kaylen Gehrke, 24, of Longview, Texas, passed away suddenly Monday, July 11, 2022, after having an emergency medical event in the Kisatchie National Forest in southwest Natchitoches Parish. Employed by Cultural Resource Analysts in Shreveport, it was her first day on the job with two other co-workers conducting archaeological surveys in that forest for the U.S. Forest Service. That day turned tragic when Kaylen collapsed from heat stroke. Efforts provided at the scene were unsuccessful in resuscitating her.
Kaylen was born Dec. 1, 1997, in Miles City, Mont., to Ronald and Betsy (Becker) Gehrke. She was a 2016 graduate of Golden High School in Golden, Colo., and earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic anthropology and a minor in Spanish from the University of Montana in Missoula, in 2019. She had recently moved to Longview from Montana to be with her parents and sister and was excited to begin her career in anthropology. Her sister, Kylie Gehrke, described her as “kind, sweet with a hint of spice, and loved the outdoors.”
Kaylen was an exuberant writer and artist and embodied positivity to all she encountered. In her younger years, she exhibited her creative nature by making ceramic pieces and hand-sewn pillows. She enjoyed being a Girl Scout for six years. As an eighth grade student at Bell Middle School in Golden, Kaylen earned the Bell Excellence Award for her achievements in her Collegiate Peaks team. At Golden High School, she placed second in state poetry contests, was Student Council President and a member of the National Honor Society and choir. During her sophomore year, Kaylen traveled to Barcelona, Madrid and Paris which sparked her love of Spanish and art deco. As an avid reader, she loved the classics and popular novel sets. She was invited to attend the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University in 2016 and penned several articles for the Illinois Reporter.
However, Kaylen’s primary goal in life was to create a safe, positive and welcoming environment as an advocate for self-empowering groups. Through an organization called “Day Without Hate,” she planned activities at her high school for students to focus on positivity and treating everyone with kindness. Her mother states, “I have seen her outwardly display random act of kindness, inclusion and be a positive role model to her younger peers.”
Kaylen realized that even helping one person makes a difference and that her experience motivated her to continue trying to make a change. Her favorite quote (from Robin Williams) was, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
Kaylen is survived by her devoted parents, Ronald and Betsy (Becker) Gehrke; adoring sister Kylie Gehrke; loving aunts and uncles in Illinois, Iowa and Montana; and entertaining cousins and fabulous friends in Montana and throughout the country.
She was preceded in death by her maternal grandparents, Warren and Dorothy Becker; paternal grandparents, Harvey and Eileen Gehrke; and great-grandma, Evelyn Gehrke.
We loved Kaylen and will miss her fiercely. She wanted a world without hate; we just wanted a world with Kaylen in it. Kaylen believed that, “One person can alter an entire lifetime by solely demonstrating compassion. I genuinely strive to make others feel that they belong and matter.” You certainly did, Kaylen. You certainly did. We will love you forever and always.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Kaylen’s name to the national non-profit organization “TWLOHA – To Write Love on Her Arms,” which was her favorite charity, at www.twloha.com.
Visitation will be Tuesday, July 19 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Stevenson and Sons Funeral Home in Forsyth, Mont. A rosary service will follow at 5:30 p.m. Funeral Mass will be at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at noon Wednesday, July 20 in Forsyth. Burial will follow in the Forsyth Cemetery. Stevenson and Sons Funeral Home have been entrusted with arrangements. To leave condolences for the family, visit www.stevensonandsons.com.