Lane Mannix had a smile that lit up the room. She was always willing to take on new opportunities and challenges. She was beautiful, kind, caring and witty. She was "18 going on 30" and an old soul. She was funny and stubborn at times. She loved animals and made friends without conditions. She was an outstanding student, an excellent athlete and a "ray of sunshine" in the lives of those around her.
But if you talked to any of her family members, friends, classmates or community members who attended funeral services for Mannix on Saturday, they'd tell you words can't begin to describe her.
Cars filled the parking lot of the Christian Life Center and overflowed onto Russell Street on Saturday morning as hundreds of Missoulians gathered to honor Mannix, a recent Hellgate High School graduate who was killed in a car accident northwest of Helena on Monday afternoon.
The service began with a slideshow of photos that gave a snapshot of Mannix's life and invoked memories of childhood summers spent at the family's cabin on Seeley Lake, winters on the ski slopes, late nights with friends, family events and vacations, volleyball games, her high school graduation, and other day-to-day moments that at one time might have seemed insignificant. Mannix's smile lit up every photo.
Ryan Mannix, Lane's father, was the first to speak at the service.
"My dear sweet Lane bug," he said. "My heart is broken. You're the sweetest person I'll ever know and everything I strive to be. Your eyes are kind, your smile infectious. Your arms are open and your love is loyal and unconditional."
Her dad talked about when she entered the world on Nov. 27, 2000, and how her brother Jace followed 25 months later. The two became best friends.
"He tormented you as younger brothers do and you loved him all the more for it," her dad said.
The two siblings often fought, with Jace provoking his sister by doing things like leaving her bedroom door open when he knew she wanted it shut, her mother, Amy Mannix said later at the reception Saturday afternoon.
"Holy crap," Jace Mannix, her brother, said as he addressed the crowd at the service.
Her brother began reading a letter but stopped and said the words he wrote couldn't describe his sister. Instead, he left the audience with a message.
"Just be close with those around you," he said, choking back tears. "You really never know and God forbid, if something does happen, the only peace of mind you can have is your feelings and emotions toward that person and the time you spent with each other."
Mannix graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hellgate High School on June 8, 2019, just two weeks before she passed. She had recently received the Presidential Award for outstanding academic excellence and was planning to attend the University of Montana in the fall to become a radiology tech.
"I am so proud of you and was so excited to see your next stage of life," her father said. "Unfortunately, we only had 18 years together but I will love you, Lane Ryan Mannix, for the rest of my life."
Attendees greeted the family after the service, with some of Mannix's friends trailing the procession in trucks with flags and the words "Never forget" written across a windshield. At the burial, several classmates placed their Hellgate student IDs on her casket as she was laid to rest.
The outpouring of condolences from the community continued Saturday afternoon at a reception at the Wilma Theatre. Nick Checota, the owner and a family friend, let the family use the venue knowing they would need a space to fit the hundreds of attendees.
At the reception, people filled plates from dozens and dozens of donated trays of food. Flowers and photo collages were wedged between the trays.
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During Lane’s 18 years, she played a number of sports including softball, soccer, flag football, basketball, swimming, track, golf and skiing. In her free time, she explored photography, art, dirt biking and shooting her grandfather’s guns. She mingled with various groups of friends and she was, and is, loved by many.
"I didn't know one person who didn't like her," said Hannah Worden, 19, one of Mannix's friends since childhood. "There was not one thing about her that you couldn't not like. She was just such a nice person."
Worden and Mannix recently hosted a graduation party together.
Austin Worden, Hannah's father and a longtime family friend, said he was always happy to have Mannix over at the house. "Lanie was just the perfect kid," he said.
Hayden Kolb, 16, and his brother, Trey Kolb, 19, also shared childhood memories of times they spent with Mannix. The brothers said they'll always remember tubing with her on Seeley Lake, where they'd try to hold on until finally screaming and falling off.
When they would have lemonade stands at the family's Seeley Lake cabin, Trey said Mannix was always the one who volunteered to walk back to the house to get all the supplies they'd need.
Kelli Cheff, 18, another one of Mannix's closest friends, choked back tears as she tried to stay positive. "She would want everybody to be happy and to live the way she did if she was here."
Nathan Walker, one of the pallbearers Saturday, knew Mannix since they attended Washington Middle School together. They became close friends while attending Hellgate.
Walker said he'll always remember one night when he and Mannix were hanging out late because they didn't want to go home yet. Walker asked her what she wanted to do and she said she wanted to dance.
"We went up to the top of that new parking garage and we turned up the music in my pickup and we danced in the bed of my truck," he said.
Walker said he doesn't see Mannix's passing as a goodbye. "It's a 'we'll see you soon,'" he said. "She'll always be with us."
Josie Weimer said Mannix was one of his best friends. They would hang out every day after school through their senior year and loved riding around in the woods and shooting guns at the top of Pattee Canyon.
"Her smile always got you and she was the sweetest person ever," Weimer said.
Those who attended the services and reception echoed the sentiment that they'll forever love Mannix.
"She's still the light in the room," her mother said. "That was so special about her. She brought out the best in everybody."
Condolences can be left for the family at gardencityfh.com.