Laura Scovell, 1968—2010
by Sharon Poole, Community Liaison, Noel House Programs:
Not much is known about Laura Scovell and she wasn’t known for making friends. But her presence and impact on my experience working at emergency shelters was very significant.
When I think of Laura, I’m reminded of why it’s so important to work on behalf of homeless women. Laura suffered from a mental illness that left her isolated and desperate. During the last several years of her life, it was clear that she spent her days and nights just trying to meet her basic needs at each given moment. It was easy to get frustrated with the way Laura asked for help getting her needs met. On the nights she came to Noel House looking for emergency shelter while I worked there, she was often mistrusting to the point of being confrontational. But after entering and getting settled, I knew it must have been a great relief to be safe and dry for the next few hours.
I’m sure Laura used as many of Seattle’s shelters as she needed to. Laura’s struggles through the years taught me to never underestimate the importance of simply offering a scared woman a safe place to be as often as possible. Thank you, Laura, for this lesson. There will always be a place in my heart for you and women who experience the fear of homelessness.
Her leaf is placed at Noel House.
NOTE FROM WEBSITE ADMINISTRATORS ON 27 August 2011: We have been incredibly moved and are so grateful for the loving stories shared below in the comments section of this post, which provide a fuller picture of Laura’s life and help do honor to her Leaf and her memory. We would be glad to help connect folks to some of the Commenters, and can be reached by phone at (206) 956-0334 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!
Featured Leaf August 2013
Laura was my intimate friend on occasion in my turbulent late 20s. I died a little bit reading what happened to her. It makes my own will to live that much more difficult. For a brief 2 or 3 years, her turbulent life and my straight and narrow life came together and made music. She is not a homeless statistic. She had a troubled life, but she was an angel. Don’t anybody forget her.
Laura would be infuriated, dramatically livid, at the brevity of my response there, and rightly so. So Laura, I’m sorry. And now I’m adding more.
You see, Laura was more than a 5-line footnote in my life.
She had a sharp, unpredictable nature (yes, at times combative), edgy nature, and yes could be demanding, often understandably centered on getting her immediate needs met. But even through the prism of her troubled mental state and agonies was a sense of humor and a deeply sensitive soul, a warm spirit which I’m sorry was not apparently evident to the above writer during the last years of her life. This was a time when I had not seen her, being absorbed in my own marriage and living in California.
In my life, nobody has touched me emotionally quite like her. The writer states that little is known about Laura, so I hope what I write here can help to fill that void, and elucidate aspects of this troubled but beautiful soul from the perspective of someone who knew her in the those nineties years, and who was moved by her. Before I flew to South Korea to teach in 1995, (and subsequently married and spend 3 more years there) I was very much involved in the underground theater scene in Seattle in the early nineties. Our lives intersected one night in what was I believe 1992. I met her at a playwriting group, and the actors were gathered around the table of a pub and reading one of my plays. I remember that she waltzed off the street and only heard about one page of the play. Afterward, everyone started gravely critiquing my work, everything structured, everyone taking turns. The commentary was not altogether encouraging, but then she interrupted entire uberstructured environment , to the group leader’s annoyance and dismay, and loudly praised me for just having “taken the time to write it.” The leader was visibly upset that she hadn’t followed the strict protocol and “put her name on the list” as everyone else had, that she had cavalierly bounded off the street to “crash” his group. And she was loud! and a bit abrasive! And I was a quiet, somewhat inhibited, reserved playwright and substitute teacher. I was immediately enthralled by Laura; being the total opposite of me in so many respects, I found her riveting. I was with a friend and the three of us darted from the playwrights group (ironically, the leader feeling sorry for me that this audacious woman would be interrupting the reading that they had carefully designed for me). I was a troubled soul a bit myself that time. I good woman friend of mine had taken her own life only a few weeks previous (I digress, but there was a book published about this woman, who had mental illness of her own, called Surviving Ellen by her mom Greta Eichel) , Laura (Gwendolyn as she was calling herself then) looked me in the eye and held my hand and channeled all of my grievings about Ellen and told me it would be okay. It is important for people to know of these vignettes, that soft side of her. From that time on until about 1995 (and briefly when I returned to visit in 1996), Laura and I would get together occasionally for little adventures. Sometimes we would take road trips or we would just stay in the city and go to a café or bar. She knew that I had many more financial resources on hand than she did, so yes, she would ask for help on occasion, or a place to stay, and she would sometimes show hostility or bitter envy at my spoiled, comfortable “North Seattle” existence, not having to normally worry about my next meal, always having a car to drive with gas in it, etc. But all of that was okay because she poured something into my soul that was different. I would sometimes just like to hold her hand for long periods. I felt like at those time I could do my part, even if only a little to soothe her troubled soul, the mental illness that robbing her of stability and inner contentment. I directed Laura in a one-woman play and I like to think I was instrumental in helping her regain her confidence to be on stage. After I had left for Korea, I remember she played a part in Guys and Dolls, for which she was immensely proud , and she sent met the clippings.
Yes, we were pretty close. I wanted to help her, to whisk her away from the shelters or the occasional boyfriend’s apartment into my world for something permanent to give her… security and tranquility for the rest of her life. Despite how close we got, though, she insisted on returning to the insecure sheltering and food on the edges of survival, sometimes living in the Frye Apartments, sometimes in her boyfriend’s car. She seemed inextractable from that existence.
Laura was the last person I said goodbye to besides my parents when I went off to teach in Korea in 1995. I returned to Seattle, married, in 1998, but respectfully avoided contacting Laura as our friendship had been just too intense for me to bring her into the milieu with a wife around. I drifted down the coast , to Portland, and finally to California. There was no contact between Laura and I and such it remained until I recently learned of her disturbing demise in September 2010. She had certainly hung out with guys who did jail time, but I was unaware of her own troubles with the law or what she had done or been involved in since 1996.
The writer describes Laura’s persona at the homeless shelter, but I would like to add more dimensions to what is known of my dear friend. She was of the most important people in my life; it was a gift of fate to have known her. Even in her own mental turmoil, she taught me how to live passionately, to feel, to avoid letting the wirlwhind of “careerism” steal my soul. She encouraged me to keep up with my writing, to be connected, to welcome the welter of emotions, not to block them.
Finally, I appreciate what you are doing and applaud all of your actions on behalf of homeless women, but you know, Laura was much more to me than a gilded leaf buried in the ground to be walked on. I knew Laura. She would appreciate the gesture, I’m sure, but I can imagine her response : “A leaf? That’s what I am? A leaf.” And then she would just probably laugh about it, and when she would laugh that infectious, uplifting laugh that she had. Laura to me was more like a tree root than the leaf on it, bringing life and nutrients lacking in my own foundation. We were in many ways opposites, but we recognized the greatness in each other. And there was love, tenderness. But this euphoria was always defeated time and time again by her illness , her discomfort with warbling too far out of her world as she knew it on the streets, unsteady, unsafe, and desperate as it was.
Laura, I love you. You will keep living in my dreams, in my imagination, in my writings. You are never to be forgotten.
Hi my name is Anna Scovell Laura’s daughter im not sure that you know she had a kid (me) but i apprecaite your knid words and for standing up for my mom like you did thanks Anna Scovell P.S. is your name nick???
This is to Anna. Yes, my name is Nick and I was really touched to see your posting on here. I just can’t say enough good things about your mom. I joined the Facebook page, so you will see me on there.
I am the mother of a boy your mother dated in 1986-1989. Laura spent a lot of time at our house and we always enjoyed her. She was fun, beautiful and joyful. She even attended my parents 50th wedding anniversary with Craig and our family in 1987. We visited her parents (your grandparents) in Clinton and had dinner and went to a play with them. Please extend our deepest condolences to Grandma & Grandpa.
We wish you the best.
Does anyone know where Laura was from or raised. I’m looking for a former classmate with the same name and am hoping it wasn’t her. Thanks!
Laura Scovell’s high school classmates from the Clinton, Iowa class of 1986 just learned today of Laura’s passing. I think that I speak for the group when I say that we are all shocked and saddened to learn of both Laura’s death, and the turns that her life took after classmates lost touch with her in the early ’90s.
It is inconceivable to those of us that knew her growing up to think that she would end up in and out of Seattle homeless shelters, “isolated and desperate,” as Ms. Poole describes her above. The Laura that we knew and will always remember was a bright and personable young woman with a great smile. She was very talented in theater and choir, and popular with her classmates.
The contrast between Laura’s classmates’ memories of her and the memories that Ms. Poole has of her interactions with Laura in the Noel House shelter are such a stark reminder of the devastating impact mental illness can have on a person. Thank you to Noel House for the assistance that you provided to Laura during her life, and continue to provide to other women in need.
Rest in peace, Laura.
Laura was one of my best friends since I met her our freshman year in high school. She was bright, creative, talented and fun! She was active in many school activities, including theater, choir, publications, and more. It is because of her that I also did these things, as she was so encouraging and always looking for ways to be involved with people. She was very kind, generous, and compassionate as well. She had a dramatic sense of style and it was fun to see what colorful creative attire she would come up with day to day. She taught me a lot of things and shaped my high school years. I have many memories of good times and laughter with her.
I appreciate the above writings to piece together the puzzle we, her classmates and friends have been wondering for years. Many of us have tried finding her, but always turned up nothing. I last saw Laura in Iowa City, around 1988-89 when she came to visit along with her sax playing boyfriend for a jam night at the Yacht Club. She was attending UNI then and seemed happy.
I am so sad Laura lost touch with us all back home. She was loved and valued. She was smart, creative and talented.and beautiful. I will forever remember her that way.
Don’t really know the the course in Lauras life after high school. I do know there was a time when laura was a good friend of mine. Very sad to hear of such a bright person and an old friend passing away in an environment you would’t expect. Laura thanks for being a friend on that DC trip, rest in peace.
During high school, Laura would hang out with me and a few other friends. We always had a great time and, true to her free spirit, she was up for whatever it was we were doing. She was vibrant and fun. What impressed me the most was her desire for harmony. Laura wanted everyone to be kind to one another, as it should be. Like Elizabeth, I ran into Laura during her visit to Iowa City around 1988. She found out that I had drop out of college to get married, read me the riot act then told me to go back to school…which is what I’ve done. Her words rang in my ears until I went back. I will forever remember that meeting. It was the last time I saw her and she was smiling and happy. When I found out today what she had been through and that she had passed away, I felt terrible. Laura was very important in the town of Clinton, Iowa and regarded as a wonderful girl with a positive spirit.
Rest in peace, Laura.
I am the writer of the 2nd and 3rd comment. I don’t want to post my phone number on a website, but I wanted to reach out to anyone who wants to talk or share anything about Laura. We were extremely close just for a fleeting couple of years, but she left an enormous impression on my life and in my heart. I have spoken with Sharon Poole, Community Liaison of Noel House Programs (who wrote the first comment) and have given her permission to share my phone number with anyone who is interested. I’m so happy to read all these wonderful tributes to her.
Dear N, For those of us that knew Laura in her days growing up in Clinton, we thank you so much for your kindhearted words and compassion towards our lost friend. We are all completely stunned with the tragic path Laura’s life took and your words have helped us fill in some gaps. That talented and encouraging young woman you first met back in ’92 was the Laura we all know but the troubled soul described by yourself and Sharon are totally foreign to us. There are many from our class that knew Laura better than I and I know they are in pain, learning of this loss. It is my hope they reach out to you and I shall do whatever I can to encourage them to do so!
Many of us are in discussion of ways to honor her memory and to reach out with help towards those who helped Laura through her plight. One of Laura’s dearest friends has created a group on Facebook in her memory if you are interested. We hope to fill it with all the bright moments through stories and photos of the Laura we all knew! We would love to welcome you in and share with us!
I did a search on Facebook under her name but was unable to find the page you described. I would love to share on this Facebook page if you wouldn’t mind posting the link here.
I do have one photo from about 1993 that has survived the years and I would love to be able to upload that (and hopefully get it on this site as well.)
Just as a reminder, if you contact Sharon Poole, she will pass along my full name, phone number and e-mail. I have much to share about her during that period. Though so much time has passed since I last spoke to her when she called long distance to the extended stay hotel where I was staying in Pusan, Korea in 1996, the depth of my feelings for her has been unmitigated by time. She was such a vibrant woman who so much enriched my life and even today, during those occasional trials of life, I’ll sometimes close my eyes and imagine her soft words of encouragement.
It’s nice to know, and it doesn’t surprise me, that she made such a positive impact on the people around her where she grew up. I look forward to connecting with whomever would like and I’ll do what I can to fill in some of the gaps about your beloved friend and classmate.
Since posting yesterday, some of Laura’s closest friends were able to track down her Mother…and the great news is that we have learned she has a daughter. She is currently in the 6th grade and some have even talked to her. She has joined us on the Facebook group in Laura’s memory (http://www.facebook.com/groups/191285334272458/) . We look forward to adding you into our family of friends!
Please let me know if you have any troubles joining the group and I will contact you directly.
I just want to say that I’m grateful beyond words for these responses.
My condolences go to all of you for your loss. Laura had a very strong and charismatic personality, which shined even in the peak of the struggles I saw her go through. I’m not surprised at all by any of the descriptions of her. I hope it brings some comfort to know that I remember her as a very sytlish dresser every time she came to the shelter.
It’s a rare gift to learn about the lives of the women we serve. This project is organized by WHEEL to bring attention to people who aren’t statistics. Thank you, WHEEL, for your loving work.
Community Liaison, Noel House Programs
Thank you Sharon for taking care of Laura when she came to Noel House. Still grieving over the news of her passing. i just learned of this.
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” ~ Ferdinand Foch