A Life Remembered: Monticello High standout 'always had a smile'

A Life Remembered: Monticello High standout 'always had a smile'

A former Monticello resident killed in a two-car accident in Kansas is being remembered for her smile and athletic prowess in high school, and for becoming an advocate for child adoption after moving away.

Emily (Geissal) Lightner, 37, of Scott City, Kan., was pronounced dead at the scene of an accident this week after her 2012 Toyota Prius was struck by a 2001 Dodge Stratus driven by a 16-year-old who McPherson County Sheriff's Department officials said apparently did not stop at an intersection.

"You're going to hear the same thing from everyone: She was a wonderful person and the least deserving person to have something bad happen to her," said Nate Beccue of Monticello, a fellow 1998 MHS graduate who shared that year's high school athlete of the year award with Mrs. Lightner and Sara Mitchell.

Mrs. Lightner earned the award as a multi-year standout in cross country and track, where she served as a captain for both squads her senior year. She also played on the girls' basketball team.

"She was just one of those people who could make a friend with everybody," Beccue said.

He also remembers her dressing up in a dark robe and saddling up on her horse to cheer the underdog football team that made the playoffs their senior year.

Her attitude about athletics, academics and life in general stood out to Randy Moss, the 22-year Monticello High School athletic director who retired in 2016.

"Emily was not only a tremendous student but a tremendous student-athlete," Moss said. "She always had a smile on her face."

In 2004, she married Matthew Lightner, now a family practice physician in Scott City. Together, they had three children of their own before adopting twins, then had another child of their own just last year.

To Julie Samaniego, founder of the nonprofit Circle of Love Adoption Support agency in Wichita, Kan., the Lightners saw adoption as a scriptural calling.

"They saw it as being obedient in serving widows and orphans as told in the Bible. They wanted to be obedient," said Samaniego.

The family also supported Circle of Love's policy of allowing birth mothers to help partner with adoptive parents in raising the adopted children.

Samaniego said the couple's example was the best advertisement her agency has ever had. "People would notice them and say, 'We want to do what they did.' They were a great example," she added. The Lightners were also known to find safe homes for expectant mothers.

Their work got them noticed by Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp, who made sure they received an Angels in Adoption Award by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in 2015.

Mrs. Lightner was a member of First Baptist Church, Scott City. Surviving are her husband, three sons and three daughters.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.

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