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Friend, classmate Caleb 'Crosby' is remembered by his classmates

Friends, from left, Ashley Thelen, Nicole Price and Morgan Olson remembered classmate Caleb Anderson with the T-shirts Tuesday. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

This year's Park Rapids Area High School seniors headed back to class Tuesday in a common wardrobe - T-shirts honoring Caleb "Crosby" Anderson.

Caleb ended his life just before school was to begin last September. He was 16.

A trio of his friends - Ashley Thelen, Nicole Price and Morgan Olson - orchestrated the event "to raise awareness, to celebrate his life," Olson said.

"And to let people know, if you see a sign, don't take it lightly," Thelen said.

She speaks from experience. A week before Caleb died, he texted Thelen, telling her he was "depressed and didn't know what to do."

"I didn't think it would happen," she said.

Then, Sept. 4, two days before school was to begin, Thelen read a text from Caleb stating, "I can't be here anymore. Please have a good life...enjoy your senior year."

"I tried to stop him," she said of replying via text, advising him, "Don't do it. It's not worth it." But she received no response.

Thelen showed the messages to her mother, Brenda Stuemke, who recommended they contact the police.

Other friends were receiving similar messages, she would later learn.

"It was a shock," Price said. "None of us saw it coming."

Including his parents.

"It was not on our radar," said his mother, Reneé Anderson, who was in Georgia with husband/ dad Arch at the time. "This can happen to families when there is no sign of it."

Anderson said she has been "touched by the support of students.

"It is their senior year and they have so many good things to enjoy this last year of school. They could easily put this behind them.

"It's humbling and touching to know that they remember him and that he had such wonderful friends in his life," Anderson said.

School counselor Susan Rassier urges students dealing with depression, who may be considering suicide, to talk to a minister, a counselor, medical professional, a relative or friends.

"Tap someone," she urges. "You are not interfering with their day."

Committing suicide, Rassier said, "leaves everyone in turmoil. Is that how you want to be remembered? Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

"Seek someone out," Rassier advises.

"It's my understanding that people who commit suicide do not see the terrible effect it will have," Anderson said.  "They are only looking for a release of whatever pain they have inside.  

"Everything Caleb left behind for us indicated he felt he could step out of our lives and we would be fine," she said. "Of course it's not like that.  It's devastating.  I hope the community has learned that this tragedy can happen in perfectly normal, everyday families.  

"It hit us completely out of the blue," Anderson said. "We want people to know just how unexpected and sudden loss can be so that they maybe learn to say, 'I love you' more and listen to each other more.  

"We thought we would have so much more time to do things we wanted to do together.  It was gone in an instant," Anderson said.  

"It's still hard to believe he's gone," Olson said of the "huge sports fan," Pittsburgh Penguins player Sidney Crosby his favorite.

Hockey sticks and "Crosby" on the T-shirts define their memories of Caleb.

"He didn't realize the impact," Olson said, "that so many people cared about him."