While a car crash claimed her life, former Keene State College student Emilie Lafontaine's spirit will be remembered not only through those close to her, but also through her artwork.

"Her smile is something that will remain with me for the rest of my life," said sophomore Amanda Ruest. "She always made me laugh."

Besides her smile, which Ruest described as "contagious" and "electrifying," Lafontaine was described by friends and family as full of life and energetic.

"Emilie was active, never one to sit still," said Louis Manias, her stepfather.

"She was very bubbly and always excited," said Manias.

"She was very much a presence," said sophomore Rebecca Eisenhandler.

Lafontaine, 20, attended KSC for three semesters and was not enrolled this spring. During that time at KSC, she was a member of the women's rugby team and participated in yoga, according to sophomore Sheri Lantagne. Also, Lafontaine played the viola in the string ensemble and orchestra and was in the art program.

"When she did play [the viola] she always had this good attitude," said junior Claire Woodcock, who was in string ensemble and orchestra with Lafontaine. "She just did it because she loved it."

According to sophomore Jenny Twohig, Lafontaine had "just really started to get into the banjo."

However, Lafontaine's talent was in art.

"She would have been one of the best students by the time she was a senior," said Rosemarie Bernardi, chair of the art department.

According to Bernardi, Lafontaine was one of only four to six freshman to have her work displayed in the annual student art show last year.

"It was a beautiful drawing," she said of the reverse charcoal still life.

Her drawings were very sensitive and strong, said Bernardi, who had Lafontaine as a student for her Drawing I class during the fall 2005 semester.

"She started drawing at a very early age. She had a very natural talent." said Manias.

At the Manias' home in Concord there were sketchbooks filled with still life drawings and portraits, and poster boards pasted with doodles, drawings and photographs done by Lafontaine.

"She always drew," said her stepfather.

According to Lantagne, Lafontaine taught her different techniques, and encouraged her to continue with her own artwork.

Besides Lantagne, Lafontaine encouraged other friends to continue to explore their creativity.

"She encouraged me to keep painting and drawing and exploring that aspect of myself more," said Twohig.

Besides her involvement in the campus community, Lafontaine worked as a hostess at The Pub Restaurant.

"She was one of those kids you liked to have around," said Keene Mayor Michael Blastos, a family friend and owner of The Pub.

Lafontaine also cared deeply about her friends and family.

"I'll always remember her genuine care for others," said Lantagne.

"She definitely made me think more about who I am and how my life fits in the life of others," said Eisenhandler.

Besides her artwork, Lafontaine's spirit will now live on in those she has never met.

While Lafontaine was not an organ donor, a family decision was made to donate her organs after they arrived at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center following the accident, according to her stepfather.

According to a press release from the New London Police Department, a call was received about a crash involving two vehicles at the intersection of Routes 11 and 114 at 7:34 p.m. March 24. Lafontaine was heading north on Route 114 driving a Volkswagon Jetta, while Daniel Merzi of Wilmot was headingeast on Route 11 driving a Chevy pick-up truck pulling a trailer. The investigation into the crash remained ongoing as of March 30.

"The officer (from the Concord Police Department) said it was a T-bone hit and immediately she was gone," said Mary Lou Manias, Lafontaine's mother.

When Lafontaine's parents got to the hospital they already had an idea of how serious the accident was and the neurosurgeon told them Lafontaine was essentially brain dead, but her body was viable, said Manias. Then, a person from the New England Organ Bank spoke with them about donating her organs, he said.

Despite being a minor, her sister Alexandra Manias, 13, insisted on cosigning the consent form with her parents to have her sister's organs donated. It was a family decision.

"Alexandra and Emilie were best buddies," said Manias.

Lafontaine's stepfather, mother and sister were not registered as organ donors before the accident, but said they would now be, and encouraged others to sign up upon renewing their licenses.

"We know Emilie is still living on in other people," said Manias.

According to the Concord Monitor, Lafontaine was born in Montreal, Canada on Dec. 26, 1986, and her father, Guy Lafontaine, had died of a heart attack 25 days before her birth. She graduated from Concord High School in 2005.

Besides being best friends with her sister, Lafontaine had a close relationship with her parents.

"She was my best friend," said her mother. "She was 20 years old and could sit right here (in a chair in the living room) and talk to us."

At the time of her death, Lafontaine had been working at Karner Blue Cafe in Concord Hospital and Panera, according to the Concord Monitor.

"She needed some time to grow outside of school," said Lantagne.

According to her mother, Lafontaine was planning to take art courses at either the School of Art at Kimball-Jenkins Estate or the New Hampshire Institute of Art at Manchester.

"She wanted to have a blast in life and she did," said Manias.

For more information on organ donation, please read "A new heart, a new life: Transplant recipient speaks at KSC of the importance of organ donation" in Features this week.