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By Shaina Yaranon At a high school debate competition, Emily Ramm approached Lexi Ellis, introduced herself and invited her to hang out. Ramm’s fearlessness showed a lot about her character and left an impression on Ellis. This sparked one of the strongest friendships that Ellis ever had, which lasted years until Ramm’s unexpected death. Ellis said she believed Ramm was one of the kindest people she knew. “She was really outgoing, really friendly, she made friends super easily, she wasn’t afraid of anything and she would go over and talk to anyone, no matter what,” Ellis said. “She was by far one of the sweetest people you could’ve met and was just a funny and overall loving person.” In June, Ellis, an incoming freshman at Western, graduated from Gig Harbor High School and decided to symbolically bring Ramm to graduation with her by attaching pictures of Ramm to the top of her graduation cap. On August 13, 2016, Ramm went out to watch a meteor shower and was killed when she slipped and fell while climbing a ladder on a construction site at an elementary school. Over the past few years, the tragedy has greatly impacted Ellis.

Lexi Ellis's high school graduation cap, adorned with pictures of her and Emily Ramm. // Photo courtesy of Lexi Ellis
“It was my first big loss. I’ve never really lost anyone so close to me and it was so unexpected,” Ellis said. “It really hit me hard and it hit everyone around me hard.” For Ellis, Ramm’s death changed the way she viewed life and the people around her. “After she passed, I realized how much I need to value the people in my life. You don’t really know who could be next or what could happen next,” she said. Ellis said after Ramm died, she tried to focus more on others by ensuring they knew she appreciated and loved them. According to Ellis, this was the first year Gig Harbor High School allowed students to decorate their graduation caps. She thought carefully about what she wanted her cap to represent and her thoughts kept drifting to Ramm and how tragic it was that Ramm never made it to her high school graduation. “That’s such an early time in our life, like we’re just at the beginning,” said Ellis. Ellis came up with the idea of creating a memorial by attaching two pictures of the two girls together on the corners of the cap surrounded by flowers. “She was cremated, so she didn’t have a gravesite,” Ellis said. “So I’ve never been able to visit her grave or anything. With the flowers I kind of wanted it to represent a memorial for her.” She wanted to make her graduation day not just about herself but also about Ramm, who didn’t have the chance to be there. Ellis wanted nothing else but to represent Ramm in some way. The project meant a lot to her and Ramm’s family and friends to know that she was still thought of even on important days like graduation. Ellis also attached one of the postcards that she had received from Western that she cut into a shape of a heart, as well as the words “WWU Bound” in Western’s school colors to represent her future school. As Ellis walked down the aisle on her graduation day to receive her diploma, she said her cap was a way to make it feel like Ramm was right beside her in spirit. “I just realized that I had finally accomplished all of this, but at the same time I felt like Emily was with me in some way,” Ellis said. Ellis’ friends and family were proud and touched when they saw her tribute to Ramm. “Although she didn’t tell me that she was going to honor Emily in this way, I wasn’t surprised,” said Ellis’ mother, Lisa Ellis. “Lexi has always posted small tributes to Emily on her day of passing and even monthly memories and images to keep her memories alive.” Liam Stone, a close friend of Ellis and fellow debate team member who also knew Ramm, spoke on how he felt about Ellis’ homage to Ramm. “It made sense because Lexi had always had a difficult time dealing with her death,” Stone said. “The photos of Emily and her were all she had left of her and were a testament to their friendship that many people didn’t know about. I thought it was very sincere that she still managed to pay tribute to Emily and her life even after her death.” For people who are going through similar experiences with losing a loved one or a close friend, Ellis wanted them to know this: “I think the only advice you could give to people is just that there’s nothing you could do or could’ve done,” said Ellis. “But you could take away from a tragic experience and turn it into a beautiful learning lesson.” She believes people shouldn’t have to blame themselves or feel guilty after losing someone, and that they can find solace by carrying on someone’s legacy, such as paying tribute in various ways. In the meantime, Ellis will try her best to continue to honor the memory of Ramm by thinking about her and talking about her often, especially in times of importance, because she doesn’t want Ramm to ever be forgotten. Ellis also looks excitedly to the future. She’s not exactly sure what path she’s going to take, but has a general interest in studying communications and environmental studies. “I figured Western was a really good place to pursue that, and I’m excited about where it will take me,” Ellis said.  

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