She wasn't one of his students, but Thom Gleich always enjoyed saying hello to her in the hallways at Davenport North High School.
Katie Soenksen's presence was like a ray of sunshine.
At about 5 feet 10 inches, she was relatively tall. And she always flashed a big, beautiful smile - one you couldn't help but return with one of your own, the special education teacher said.
"She had one smile that just would not quit," Gleich said.
Now, he is trying to replicate that smile - by carving it into an oak tree.
Gleich, known for his elaborate wood carvings across the Quad-City area, including ones at Credit Island and Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport, is just beginning to work on a new carving in honor of the 19-year-old Soenksen.
The former Davenport North student, who was an active member of the school's Marine Corps ROTC program, died in May while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
And it was North's ROTC students, many of whom knew Soenksen personally, who raised $1,000 to cover Gleich's cost to create the memorial, which will be housed inside the school.
"The kids did that," said Gunnery Sgt. Greg "Gunny" Livingston, who runs the North ROTC program. "As soon as we found out that she died, they started saying, 'We should do some kind of memorial for her.'"
The students sold candy and hot dogs and held car washes at the end of the previous school year and at the beginning of this school year to raise the money to pay Gleich for his work, Livingston said.