Ladies Night for Lynnie
On Monday, May 9, mothers, daughters and survivors gathered to remember Lynnie Ann Loucks, a 43-year-old mother who was the victim of an April 28 domestic violence homicide in Brainerd.
BRAINERD — She was a joyful, loving friend and sister.
Smiling and looking out for other people, she always tried to go the extra mile to make sure everybody had their needs met. She loved, prayed, and laughed with everyone all the time.
Remembered for her spirit for life, Lynnie Ann Loucks, a 43-year-old mother, was the victim of an April 28 domestic violence homicide in rural Brainerd.
On May 9, mothers, daughters and survivors gathered at JR’s No. 19 Pizza and BBQ in Brainerd to celebrate the life of Loucks and to bring domestic violence out of the shadows and into everyday conversation.
The theme for the ladies-only poker night was “dress to impress,” as Loucks planned to dress up with her daughter for the poker league.
Promptly starting at 6 p.m., there wasn't an empty seat available as women filled the restaurant looking to bring awareness to domestic violence in their community.
Playing poker in the league for almost two years, Cya James said she was introduced to Loucks through her husband. Loucks was a tough player, she said, and would always play at one of the top tables.
“I pay to see the cards too much so it's never in my favor,” James said about her betting habits during poker play. “It’s always, ‘Dang it, I was fooled again.’”
James came out to play in the poker tournament to support Loucks’ family with other community members and to voice her concern about the problem of domestic violence.
“Awareness, talking about it and making it OK to talk about is huge, but it's hard to get there, too,” James said. “As a person who's dealt with it myself, it's hard to speak up, you know — it's easy to want to barricade yourself from anybody knowing what's actually going on because of judgment or getting beaten again when you say something, because there's always that threat.”
Happy to be in a loving marriage now, James said admitting there is a problem and talking about domestic violence is necessary to build a support system to get those who need help the resources they need.
Helping the community feel welcome was Jason Marcum, owner of JR’s No. 19 Pizza and BBQ and The U.G.L.Y. Cheesecake Co., who hosted and donated all the proceeds from sales of baked goods with the help of the Mid-Minnesota Women's Center.
“We're just here to show the family support and to honor Lynnie's life … so we're all chipping in and helping out to raise funds for the family and awareness about domestic violence,” said Shannon Wussow, the executive director of Mid-Minnesota Women's Center.
The event raised $1,760 for the family, Wussow said.
Marissa Gower — a friend of one of Loucks’ daughters — and her mother Nicole Gower came to the event to let people know how amazing Loucks was and to bring awareness to domestic violence.
“People don't understand how hard it is to get out of a domestic violence relationship,” Marissa Gower said. “Personally, my father was an abuser. Thankfully, my mom got out, we got out, and got safe.”
Marissa Gower said though her family situation was not one she would want anyone to be in, it made her the person that she is today.
“Yeah, it did affect her a lot,” Nicole Gower said. “Any time there would be a fight, she would be screaming, 'Stop — no.' … It wasn't physical but it still really affected her. It's not fun knowing that I put them through that, by staying. But once you get out, your eyes are wide open.”
Meeting Loucks almost seven years ago while getting her hair cut, Rachel Cain said they became friends over the last couple of years and started going on “mom dates” as her kids got older.
Cain recalled taking goofy photos with Loucks wherever they went.
“Whether it's jumping in the air or doing a flip or standing on a pillar, we took stupid pictures,” Cain said.
Before the tournament started, Cain said it had been a difficult time since Lynnie’s death, with lots of tears and not understanding why. As a nurse, she has seen a recent shift in the stigma around discussing mental health issues and would like to see other stigmas broken down as well.
“As a woman, it's hard to speak out unless you trust somebody,” Cain said.
Speaking out is needed as all too often people are not comfortable enough to have a conversation about the situations they have been in, said Tadina Ikola, who played poker with Lynnie and her daughter two weeks ago and had planned to meet again for ladies' night.
“It actually opened up a conversation between me and a friend of mine that we found out that we both come from domestic violence backgrounds,” Ikola said. “My mom was in an extremely abusive relationship my entire childhood and I can vividly remember things that would happen to her. I had a conversation with her shortly after I heard about Lynnie and she still says, 'Well, it wasn't that bad,' and that bothers me.”
Ikola said she hopes the discussions people are having will make it so women never have to say, “It wasn't that bad,” or “I probably deserved that.”
“Nobody deserves it,” Ikola said, adding she is working hard to instill those values in her own daughter.
The man accused of killing Loucks, Michael Lowell Munger, was arraigned Friday, April 29, in Crow Wing County District Court on two charges of second-degree murder. His next court date is scheduled for May 24 in Crow Wing County District Court.
Loucks’ obituary may be found at bit.ly/3NawTpN .
The family set up a website at lynnieslegacy.life to honor Loucks and create a place where people can share their stories of her.