Time isn’t numbing Lisa Colfer’s wounds, it’s just numbing the pain.

Then something happens, it might be as simple as song on the radio or the look on the face of some young girl she sees at the store, and it turns the knife that has been in Colfer’s heart since her daughter, Brittney LaBrie, passed away in October.

But Colfer ran headfirst toward the pain this week when she returned to the place, to the people, that Brittney loved best in this world.

“This past week has been hell on me,” Colfer said. “I haven’t been able to go up to the cemetery since the first snowstorm and it’s killing me. I still expect her to walk through the door. It’s just … I don’t know … hard.”

Brittney was just 17 years old last October when she was hit by a car while crossing Bangor Street in Augusta. She died four days later.

From the very first moments after Brittney’s passing, her mom took on the task of creating a scholarship fund to benefit a student at Laurie’s School of Dance in Winslow.


“Dance was Brittney,” Colfer said. “She loved to dance. She wanted to go to (The Juilliard School) in New York when she graduated. The passion she had was wonderful. She just glowed.”

Laurie Levasseur, known affectionly to her students as Ms. Laurie, met Brittney as a 5-year-old learning how to twirl to the music.

“She was very quiet,” Levasseur said. “For her to come up to me and ask me a question was a big deal. She’d do whatever I said.”

The dance studio became like a second home to Brittney.

“She loved Ms. Laurie to pieces,” Colfer said.

Even before Brittney’s death, Levasseur had planned to have the seniors in her class dance to Guns n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by the Vitamin String Quartet.


When Brittney died, Levasseur approached her seniors about dedicating the performance to Brittney.

“I thought it was great,” said Erskine Academy senior Megan McQuarrie “(Brittney) would have been with us.”

The decision to dedicate the dance to Brittney has helped keep her memory at the forefront throughout the hours of practice.

“Whenever we were practicing, Ms. Laurie would say, ‘Do it for Brittney,'” said Winslow High School senior Rebecca Sirois.

McQuarrie was in Levasseur’s office when Colfer called with news of Brittney’s death. Levasseur was one of the first people Colfer told.

“In her mom’s eyes, this place was important to Brittney and it was one of the first places she wanted to tell,” Levasseur said.


“I’m a quiet, shy girl kind of like her,” Sirois said. “I always felt welcome at the studio, and I still do. There’s nothing to worry about when you’re in the studio.”

And Brittney, like all teens, sometimes needed to escape, a chance to be free of dealing with life.

“Brittney was just one that wanted to find her place,” Levasseur said. “The studio was part of it. She was a great kid.”

Levasseur recalled the time Brittany fell during a performance and Levasseur’s daughter, just a few years older than Brittney, went out of her way to console the crushed student.

Brittney went out of her way to get the address for Levasseur’s daughter in New York to send a thank you note. The memory still touches Levasseur.

“She was quiet, but in the back of her mind, she was always thinking of other people,” Levasseur said. “She was a very thoughtful kid.”


And when it came time to say goodbye at Brittney’s funeral, the dancers, including Levasseur, Sirois, McQuarrie and two others, bid farewell the best way they knew how, with a reverence, or bow, that marks the end of every dance class.

“We stood in front of Brittney and reverenced her for the last time,” Levasseur said. “You don’t leave my studio until you’ve reverenced.”

Colfer is thrilled that the scholarship created in Brittney’s name will help other young dancers keep performing their art. Colfer has already raised $600, almost all of it from family members.

“My whole family has helped me,” she said.

The first scholarship went to Brittney’s niece, Breona Henderson, 13, of Waterville. Breona was presented the scholarship, and the plaque Colfer had made that will carrry the names of all the recipients, during an emotional ceremony held during Thursday’s recital dress rehearsal at the Messalonskee Performing Arts Center in Oakland.

“When Brittney died, it took a bad toll on my daughter,” Colfer said. “She missed a lot of work. She was unable to pay for Breona’s costume.”


Brittney and Breona, just a few years apart in age, felt an uncommon bond built, in part, on dance.

“Brittney would have wanted this,” Colfer said.

Colfer is hoping to continue building up the scholarship to help students in financial need.

“It was just something I had to do for Brittney,” Colfer said. “She was very much loved. Brittney was a beautiful person. I know she’s looking down and she’s smiling about this.”

To donate to the Brittney LaBrie Scholarship Fund, send a check or money order to the Brittney LaBrie Memorial Fund, c/o Lisa Colfer, 41 Keith St., Chelsea, ME 04330.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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