NEW HAMPTON — A Northeast Iowa veteran who married his girlfriend just hours before dying of liver cancer last month will be honored with a memorial bench by his New Hampton classmates.
Tristin Laue was 20 when he married Tianna on April 27, a ceremony planned quickly due to Laue’s advanced condition. Hours later, he died of a rare form of liver cancer.
Thanks to family and friends, the couple’s story went viral, picked up by national and international news outlets in the weeks afterward.
Tianna Laue said she thinks the response to the couple’s story — she’s heard from news organizations from all over, and gotten messages from strangers as far away as Germany and Japan — was what her late husband would have wanted.
“He wanted our wedding to be big,” she said in a message to The Courier on Friday. “It’s comforting to think he’s looking down and seeing how many people know a little bit of him now and, even if it wasn’t in the exact same way he wanted, he got his wish.”
Fellow New Hampton High School Class of 2016 classmate Grace Tolliver created a site to raise money for a memorial bench and Laue’s name on a special school pathway.
“The Class of 2016 mourns our beloved classmate Tristin Laue,” she wrote in the appeal. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to honor him with a memorial bench and his name on the Chickasaw Legacy Pathway.”
The fundraiser exceeded its goal of $5,000 Tuesday and and continued to climb.
“All proceeds will be going directly to the memorial as well as any funds left over will be going to help his loved ones in any way they need,” she wrote in the appeal. “Help us remember a great Chickasaw who brought laughter and kindness to us all!”
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Laue’s aunt, Kelly Larson, wrote on Facebook that Laue was diagnosed “with a very rare Stage 4 liver cancer” in January of 2017 at the age of 18, just after finishing Army National Guard boot camp training. Chemotherapy didn’t work, but surgery and an immunotherapy treatment seemed to be helping — his tumors were found to have shrunk by December 2017.
Laue was medically discharged from the military and enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa, Larson said, and got a job and an apartment when he found out sometime in 2018 the treatments “were no longer working.”
He met Tiana in December 2018, Larson wrote.
“They dated and fell in love, despite his unknown future,” she said.
When it was clear Laue, by now in hospice care at home, didn’t have much more time, he proposed to Tianna on Easter Sunday, April 21. She said yes, and family and friends hustled to make the wedding ceremony happen quickly.
“His dad and stepmom rallied the community and the following Saturday, April 27th, they got married, surrounded by many of their family and friends, on a snowy spring day,” Larson wrote. “He died 5 hours later, still surrounded by loved ones.”
Photos on the Go Fund Me page show an emaciated but smiling Laue holding his wife’s hand — he in a dress shirt and tie, she in a white wedding gown and veil.
“Tristin’s story reminds me of grace, of the power of love, of beauty in the hardest times. Of not giving up and embracing what there is to embrace in life,” Larson wrote. “Whatever you take from this story, I hope it inspires something of life and love in your heart today.”
To visit the Go Fund Me page, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/tristin-laue-memorial-bench