Facebook post unlocks history of beloved Little River Academy teenager who died in crash more than 10 years ago

Lanie Watts was killed just days before her high school graduation in 2012.
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 9:31 PM CST
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) - The small community of Little River Academy is remembering a beloved teenager who lost her life more than a decade ago, that’s because a social media post is bringing her legacy back to life.

Driving past roadside memorials is common but for Temple resident Jon Vaughn, seeing three crosses at the intersection of Pritchard Road and Highway 36 is part of his daily routine.

“I drive by it everyday so it definitely gets my attention, the names on here are really distinct,” Vaughn says while gesturing towards the memorial.

Out of curiosity, he posted on social media not knowing the story it would uncover.

“There was just an outpouring of love for the people part of this memorial,” Vaughn says.

The comments flooded with memories of Lanie Watts, an Academy High School senior. Her friends and family describe her as smart, creative, ambitious with a huge heart for others.

“She was involved in a lot of things with the community, she had so many friends and a beautiful smile,” Kathy Harrison, Lanie’s grandmother explains.

Lanie’s best friend from high school echoing that sentiment.

“She would light up a room, anytime she would walk in a room with just a smile on her face,” Ashley Bartek says.

The timing of this social media post came on what would have been Lanie’s 29th birthday, serving as a reminder to her loved ones that she is still here.

“Of all days that this could happen. I had to shut my door at work because I was kind of in tears, but it was nice to know that even 10 years later she’s still being thought of,” Bartek says.

Lanie’s grandmother says she is still shocked by the outpouring of love and support from her community.

“I looked at it and it was just mind blowing, overwhelming,” Harrison remembers.

But Jon says he was called to uncover Lanie’s legacy.

“Some people call it a coincidence, but I think it was God at work,” Vaughn says.

To pay his respect to the victims, he cleaned up the memorial site that he says was overgrown and harder to see. On top of that, he fixed one of the crosses that had deteriorated over time.

Lanie was in the top 10% of her class, played volleyball, was in the band, was involved in theatre, was on the powerlifting team, and was preparing to go to college at UMHB to become a math teacher. She was a life we lost way too soon, but the power of social media is letting her legacy live on.

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