Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Light Rain/Windy

62°F

Portland

Light Rain/Windy

Humidity: 70%

Wind: 25 mph

  • 25 Oct 2014

    Showers/Wind 60°F 48°F

  • 26 Oct 2014

    Rain 56°F 47°F


WLHS rocked by death of freshman

A celebration of Taylor Combs' life will be held December 3rd.


The West Linn community suffered a tragic loss this week with the death of a West Linn High School freshman. According toby: SUBMITTED - Taylor Combs West Linn police, 14-year-old Taylor Combs took her life at home early Sunday evening.

“She was beautiful, caring, could light up the darkest of rooms with her smile and laugh,” said Combs’ father, Joshua Combs.

Students at the high school were told of Combs’ death Monday morning and counseling and support was offered at both the high school and at Athey Creek Middle School, where she was a student last year.

Jennifer Spencer-Iiams, director of student services in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, said the loss affected the school community — students and staff — deeply.

“When a student passes it causes all of us to struggle emotionally,” she said. “We want to focus on how this impacts us and the family and how we can support one another.”

High school counselors set up a large support room on Monday with different areas for kids to process their grief. Some students wrote cards and letters, others drew pictures and chatted with one another, Spencer-Iiams said.

“The purpose of the student support room was to meet the immediate needs of students in such a way as to help the whole school return to as much normalcy as smoothly as possible,” she said. “It’s a place where students can talk to each other and have adults around who can help.”

Students entered the student support rooms throughout the day Monday. A few students stayed most of the day, others just came and went briefly, Spencer-Iiams said.

WLHS Principal Lou Bailey sent out an email Monday afternoon to parents.

“Our immediate concern is for the wellbeing of the family and close friends and all of our students who may feel this impact in some manner. Our children are so precious to us and this loss is devastating,” Bailey wrote.

Combs ran cross country this past fall season for the high school. Her course load included art, photography and advanced placement human geography.

As news spread of her death, friends, family and other community members grieved the loss of Combs. The Twitter hashtag #RIPtaylor is filled with messages.

Connor Berggren wrote, “Prayers go out to the Combs family. I miss you already.”

Alex Glavey wrote, “I don’t know what I would do without my best friend. ... I can’t even imagine how some people are feeling right now.”

Cierra wrote, “Even if you didn’t know her personally, it still affects everybody. I’m very sorry that we have lost one of our lions.”

Emma Dean wrote, “I’m still in complete shock. I’m gunna miss seeing your face in the halls.”

This is the second suicide death by a West Linn High School student this year. In February another freshman took her own life.

Spencer-Iiams said the emotional process varies by student. Some students need time to process the information emotionally, others prefer to dive back into school work. She said teachers were able to gauge whether the entire class was ready to move with academics or hold a classwide discussion.

On Monday, an additional 12 counselors and nurses throughout the school district were either on call or present within the room at the high school. A counselor was also available in each class that Combs attended, and classes her sister, who is a sophomore, attends. Staff was also on-call at Athey Creek Middle School where Combs previously attended.

“We are just trying to be sensitive and responsive to needs as they arise,” Spencer-Iiams said.

The support room was offered on a smaller scale Tuesday and counselors and additional staff are on-call the rest of the week. Spencer-Iiams said the support room will remain open until it is no longer needed.

“When I was in the room at the end of the day (Monday) I had several students come up and give me a big hug and say, ‘Thank you for having this space available for us to make it through the day,’” she said.

A public celebration of Combs’ life will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 3 at Willamette Christian Church, 3153 Brandywine Drive, West Linn. Combs is survived by her father, Joshua Combs of West Linn; stepmother, Kim Rydbom of West Linn; and sister, Kaylee Combs of West Linn. She was preceded in death by her mother, Kimberly Hummel.

Warning signs of suicide

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, warning signs of suicide include:

• Talking about wanting to die

• Talking about feeling hopeless or lacking purpose

• Talking about feeling trapped or in pain

• Talking about being a burden

• Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly

• Increasing use of alcohol or drugs

• Sleeping more or less than usual

• Withdrawing or feeling isolated

• Displaying extreme mood swings.

If someone exhibits these warning signs, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Do not leave them alone; remove firearms, alcohol and drugs and sharp objects and take them to an emergency room or seek help from a health professional.