Editor's note - This look into the life of Lynn Messer first appeared in print and online in a November special edition on the disappearance and discovery of the remains of Messer. We reprint it here on the third anniversary of Lynn's disappearance.
Who is Lynn Messer? Everyone knows her as the woman who disappeared from her Ste. Genevieve home in the middle of the night and was never heard from since. Everyone knows who her husband is and that he is a lobbyist. Everyone has heard the stories of conflict and suspicion in the family.
But what hasn’t been heard is Lynn’s story. What made her who she was? She is not just some missing person or a story to gossip about. She is a woman who loved life itself and would never hesitate to help someone in need.
Aaron Messer said church, working with children, and missions was the element of her life that was probably her most heartfelt desire more than anything.
“The farm was something she was passionate about, but caring about kids and caring about giving herself to care for others was the dominant element of her desires more than anything,” said Aaron. “When we were little kids in St. Louis she would host Mission Friend Bible studies in the backyard. She would invite every kid in the neighborhood.”
He said his mom and dad were a bus ministry team. They drove the buses up and down the streets in south St. Louis picking up kids who otherwise wouldn't be taken to church.
“Sometimes my dad would go out on the bus route and my mom would not, just walk up to doors to get kids, she would walk in the doors and help kids get dressed to come to church,” said Aaron. “While (their) mom and dad slept and whoever may or may not be there to take care of them.”
Aaron recalled during his life on the farm how many kids who came to birthday parties were bus kids they picked up for church on Sundays. He said they would drive up and down the outer roads of State Road DD, oftentimes to the less-desirable addresses.
“Places where (the kids') mom and dad were in jail and we picked up every kid around there,” said Aaron. “My mom cooked cookies every single year for Christmas with her sisters and it was a big family production. They baked hundreds of dozens of cookies, but what my mom would do is she would make up plates of cookies and take them to every neighbor up and down the street and talk to them.”
Lynn also raised her dogs. She loved her dogs more than anything. Working on the farm, heading back to college and the soil science competitions was a way to give to her community. Working on the soil and water board in Ste. Genevieve County was her way to give back to the community and care about what’s happening with the agricultural community.
“She was so involved with 4-H beyond just her own grandkids, but caring about how many people participate in 4-H and how we reach out to our community and we help support farming, we help support the real agriculture around us,” said Aaron. “Just before she passed, there was a 4-H family and their truck and trailer filled with their show bulls and show steers was hit in an accident.”
Aaron said they lost their bulls and prize steers and it was a huge loss for the 4-H community. That whole family was starting over again.
“My mother was concerned about the fact of how much that hurt them and their family and wanted to care for them and wanted to give back,” said Aaron. “She was always the first one to show up with a casserole. My mother was in the process, when she died, of knitting or crocheting baby blankets for every expectant mother in her church.”
Lynn made things and gave of herself to everyone and she did so because she loved people with a deep passion. She cared for any child or person who was hurting.
“My mother didn’t give speeches, she wrote notes and she touched hearts everywhere she went,” said Aaron. “She reached out to people and made a difference in their lives. Mom just gave of herself as much as she could. If she set her mind to do something, she was going to do it. She was giving, loving, hard-headed and stubborn, but when she had her mind made up, she was going to do what she was going to do.”
Aaron said she gave everything and probably her only regret is that she didn’t have more to give. Her Sunday school class would get together every single month and have a giant group activity as a family.
“They would have a hayride every year on the farm and they got together once a month at somebody’s house,” said Aaron. “Every month there was a ladies group and all the ladies met. She had a homeschool meeting, she mentored, she was in a mentorship program for women at her church, and she was just absolutely giving of herself everywhere she went.”
Aaron said there is a giant wall calendar that hangs in his parents kitchen and dining room. Lynn kept the calendar absolutely filled.
“Every year, every single grandkid, cousin, aunt, uncle's birthday, wedding anniversary was on that calendar,” said Aaron. “Then every single week it was filled up with whatever ... 4-H, water (district) board, my dad’s stuff going on, where they’re going to be.”
Aaron said they had their lives mapped out in front of them constantly, then in the months after she was gone no one put anything on that calendar.
“You can see that calendar filled up to the brim with things, then she is gone and within the next two weeks of things being filled out, nothing else gets added,” Aaron said sadly. “It’s just empty and the same calendar hung on the wall for year-and-a-half because he didn’t have anything to put on it and he didn’t want to take it down because it was filled with things mom put on the calendar.”
Aaron stressed that taking the calendar down is taking down that last hope. When the year rolled around, they wondered if they should go get a new calendar but then thought, " who is going to fill it out?" It was too hard to do.
Abram said Lynn was always a giver.
“My mom didn’t do anything just a little bit,” laughed Abram. “She never worked on any program or was involved in any project just a little bit. She was 110 percent at everything that she did. She absolutely loved working with kids.”
When Lynn put together a mission friends program at church, it was not "let’s just sit down and teach a Bible story." Abram said she would call them when she got to church and ask us to come to help her carry all of her tubs of stuff in for her class.
“She would bring in a skillet, all these ingredients, and if she was doing a lesson on missionaries that were in Asia, then she would oftentimes make authentic, cultural clothes to wear while she was teaching,” said Abram. “Then she would make food that they ate in that part of the world. If it was a missionary in Africa, then she would dress accordingly.”
Abram said the kids would do some kind of a project that was reflective of their culture. He added she got them hooked on fried plantains when she would do that. Abram’s kids many times have asked to make it because they made it with grandma with their mission friends.
It wasn't just at church or at home. She was about helping everyone.
“Not just with people that she knew and not just with family, but with people she didn’t know. On more than one occasion she stopped and pulled over where folks were broke down on the side of the road.”
Lynn even went as far one time to drive a family who had no way to get home to another state where they lived.
Abram said she was such a special person and overwhelmed others with her sense of love, care and compassion of others.
“She was not content to just deal with whatever situation might come to her, but she was proactive and she was always looking to see how she could give herself to other people,” said Abram. “Through what she could do through church ... her friends, her family and it seemed like it never ended. She was always making something for somebody, she was always preparing food for someone in need.”
“When it came to our home life, our mother made our home a home,” said Abram. “Growing up we didn’t have a lot and my mother decided she was going to plant a garden and in her traditional fashion, she didn’t go out and plant a little bitty garden. No, we went out and tilled up an acre to plant a garden. That first harvest she canned like 52 quarts of tomato juice. It wasn’t something that was just for us. She was calling everyone we knew ...”
Abram said even with the difficulty with her hips and shoulders, she never let that slow her down.
“That’s one of the things that made her so truly special and that’s why so many people right now and over the last two and a half years have been so impacted by all of this,” stressed Abram.
She wanted to use what she was learning about soil sciences to help people in other countries produce their own food.
“That’s not what regular people do,” said Abram. “Regular people will go to church, they will smile and wave, they will go to programs and events and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s wonderful. There are very few people who will look at every single program, every single event and look at every single opportunity and say, I’m going to be a part of that.”
She went to Walmart on Monday night, the night before she went missing and bought supplies for teaching vacation Bible school that Tuesday night.
“Even until the last, what we know of the last days of her life, she was looking to serve and actively looking to teach others and direct others to a deeper relationship with Christ,” said Abram. “She was caught up in 'you have to have a relationship with Christ.' That is so unique and so special. As we think about her life and remember who she really was, she was very simply someone who sought to be like Christ.”
Abram said she wanted more than anything to do everything in her power to help, lead and teach others how to be a better person, how to live a better life and how to grow closer to Christ.
“The wonderful things she has done, I can’t even begin to list them all,” said Abram. “But it really does all boil down to the fact that she was a giver of herself above anything. We cannot let this mess distract us from what an amazing wonderful, loving person she was.”
Abram added they will always remember that glimmer she had in her eyes the first time she got to hold all his children and the first time she got see them.
“She had this spark of life about her,” choked up Abram. “Even when she was struggling and in pain and when she was having a hard time or a bad day, that love overshadowed all of those things. She taught me so much about life, she taught me so much about loving each other. She taught me so much about loving and pursuing my God with all that I am and that I forever will grateful to her for. She wasn’t just a mom, she was my mom and she will always be my mom.”
Abram said there is some peace in the middle of all of this that has come from knowing she is with the Lord. There is a peace that comes from knowing she is without life struggles and she doesn’t have to deal with any of this stuff because she is walking on streets of gold.
Abram said his mother almost always reminded them about what was truly important.
“What is truly important is not the bad day you had at work, it’s not breaking down on the side of the road, it’s not the flat tire, it’s not getting stuck in traffic, it’s not having enough, it’s not about any of those things, any of the day to day struggles,” said Abram “It’s about understanding that Christ gives us a peace and a love and a joy of life that can only come through him and she lived that every single day.”
Lynn was always writing down scripture verses that she would put on postcards and hang them around the house. It was all about looking to Christ and the author and the finisher of fate.
“She was neither overly pampered, but she never faced any major struggles, her parents were ideal parents in every sense of the word,” said Kerry. “I had the privilege of meeting her as a mid-teenager, falling in love with her and spending over three years with her before we got married.”
Kerry said they got married and entered their married life excited about the future, excited about being able to be together.
“We were very thrilled with our marriage, so it was no surprise that the Lord blessed us with children early on,” said Kerry. “She always wanted to have more, but we basically had to not have more for her health's sake.”
Kerry said they eventually moved to the abandoned farmhouse on his father’s farm and it had since been her love. Lynn was absolutely in love with being back on the farm, having the animals, the gardening and all the things she loved.
Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org