Marion Family Gathers for Thanksgiving, Copes with Loss of Daughter, Sister
Kelley McLaren died at the scene of a two-vehicle crash early Sunday morning. She is remembered for her love of dance and people. Her funeral service is on Saturday and visitation is on Friday.
When Kelley McLaren would finish up dance lessons at 10 o'clock at night, she'd often head out for salsa dancing with her friends late into the evening.
The 25-year-old loved to dance and she loved people. That's how Susie Murray will remember the Marion woman who died in a two-car crash early Sunday morning on Interstate 380, just south of Cedar Rapids.
"She was a very happy person," said Murray, who was McLaren's boss for two years at Dance New York-Iowa, a dance studio in Marion. "She loved dancing and she loved people."
Her dad said the night Kelley died she was coming back home from a night of line dancing in Iowa City.
"She was coming back, but didn't make it back," Tim McLaren said. "She was so full of life. Always going, going, going. She was very full of energy, bubbly, very positive."
Kelley McLaren attended Linn-Mar schools, graduating in 2006, before heading to Iowa City where she earned bachelor's degrees in art history and Spanish from the University of Iowa in 2011.
After college, she was living at home with her family in Marion.
McLaren's day job was as a sales support manager at Crystal Group in Hiawatha, and she also worked at a dance studio as a professional dance instructor.
Dancing was her passion.
"I think she liked to be able to express herself and utilitze her body in an active way," Austin Neverman said of her passion for dance. "She was able to express herself in her movements."
Neverman was McLaren's regular dance partner and knew her since their days in orchestra at Linn-Mar high school. He described her as the "sincerest, most loving and accepting person," which allowed her to positively affect many lives.
"We'd especially gotten close this past year," Neverman said. "She was really attentive and a really good listener. She'd listen to anyone's problems regardless of what was going on. We'd do that for each other. It's difficult to not have that anymore."
McLaren practiced tap, jazz, and ballet since an early age and later added pointe. She also played violin, piano, flute, and clarinet.
McLaren later discovered salsa and other Latin and partner dances, according to the studio's website. She danced with the University of Iowa Swing Dance Club for five years, and on weekends participated in swing dance competitions.
Murray, who is co-owner of the studio, said McLaren taught ballroom and Latin dancing. She worked with young children up to adults.
Her big smile, warm personality and "the biggest heart for everyone" were characteristics that stood out about McLaren, Murray said.
McLaren's death comes as her close-knit family gathers for Thanksgiving.
Kelley, the oldest of three siblings, was excited for her brothers Nick and Chris, who attend Iowa State University in Ames, to return home for the holiday week.
"We are a very close family," Tim McLaren said. "She was hopping up and down, 'yippee, yippee' that the boys are coming home for the week."
A Thanksgiving tradition, the five McLarens often packed into the car for a long drive to see family.
"When we got there, the trip is over already. That drive was the fun part," her dad said. "The kids got along so well."
The family will go ahead with Thanksgiving plans as best they can, while mourning their loss.
"We know we are going to get to see her again in heaven," he said.
The funeral service for Kelley McLaren is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, at New Life Community Church in Marion. Visitation is 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, at Murdoch Funeral Home in Marion. Burial will be following the service at Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery in Cedar Rapids.
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