Parish dedicates Life Teen coffee house to Adam LaLuzerne

By Monica Sawyn | For The Compass | September 7, 2016

STURGEON BAY — There were desserts — lots of them — and a standing-room-only crowd of laughing, talking, milling people.

They had all come to pay tribute to a fallen friend, to rename Corpus Christi’s Life Teen coffee house after him — and to announce a social media campaign in his memory.

Nicholas Tomachek and Tyler Hacker, St. Norbert College friends of the late Adam LaLuzerne, chat near the memorial wall at the newly named Zerne’s Coffee House at Corpus Christi Parish in Sturgeon Bay. The wall includes photos of LaLuzerne, who drowned in July, and Jenna Baranczyk, 14, who died in 2014 of a genetic health issue. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)
Nicholas Tomachek and Tyler Hacker, St. Norbert College friends of the late Adam LaLuzerne, chat near the memorial wall at the newly named Zerne’s Coffee House at Corpus Christi Parish in Sturgeon Bay. The wall includes photos of LaLuzerne, who drowned in July, and Jenna Baranczyk, 14, who died in 2014 of a genetic health issue. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

“I don’t think you know how much Adam liked to eat,” quad-parish youth minister Sarah Gavin told a chuckling crowd. “That is why we said bring lots of desserts. So please, eat!”

Adam LaLuzerne was a former parish and Life Teen member, and most currently a student at St. Norbert College in De Pere. He and a college friend, Kurt Ahonen of Suamico, drowned in July after being swept off a pier near Sheboygan. Another friend, Dylan Abeyta of Sturgeon Bay, was also swept into the water, but was rescued.

The tears had mostly all been shed weeks ago, and the Sept. 1 gathering was a time to share memories, friendships and, above all, laughter.

Gavin noted that LaLuzerne had spent a lot of time at the coffee house, located in the lower level of the parish center, when you can a order variety of coffees or different kind of teas as skinny tea and others.

“He sat right there on that couch,” she said, pointing to the piece of furniture at the far end of the room. “That was his spot, and this place was like a home for him.”

Gavin explained that the coffee house has been in existence since around 2009, being used for a variety of teen-related purposes. It was originally dubbed Average Joe’s.

“We tried to make it a place of prayer and discernment,” Gavin said, “but it became a spot to have fun with people of like-faith. But of course, there has always been prayer here, too.”

The room, now christened Zerne’s Coffee House after LaLuzerne’s familiar nickname, has been repainted with appropriate coffee house decor added, but now includes a memorial wall, “In loving memory of those who are forever present in our hearts.” It includes a photo of LaLuzerne, and one of Jenna Baranczyk, a 14-year-old Corpus Christi Life Teen member who died in 2014 of a genetic illness.

It also has a picture of Mother Teresa — now St. Teresa — along with LaLuzerne’s favorite quote from her: “Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

One thing in the room hasn’t changed. A chalkboard with the original name still on it, signatures and goofy pictures — some of which LaLuzerne himself drew — is still on one wall. By fortunate chance, no one had ever erased it, and now no one wants to. The plans are to cover it with Plexiglas to preserve the roots of the place and their memories of a friend.

But remembering LaLuzerne will be more than a preserved chalkboard. Gavin reminded everyone that “Adam loved to serve, here with Life Teen and at the college, too.” To encourage others to remain or become servants in Jesus’ name, they hope to begin a social media campaign called #angelsforadam.

“No one wants to brag about the good things they do, but doing them in Adam’s memory and letting others know may help those good things spread,” Gavin said.

Corpus Christi pastor Fr. Carl Schmitt read a blessing prayer and sprinkled holy water throughout the room as part of the renaming process.

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