By Greg Ritchie
LATEXO – As recently reported in The Messenger, a devastating house fire gutted the residence of the Colle family while they were at church in Lufkin. Among those rushing back to see what had happened was daughter Elle Brown. The 19-year-old Latexo graduate is working to keep herself busy and motivated after the fire, with a busy schedule of work, school and cheer.
Brown moved to Houston County with her family from the Fort Worth area, eventually joining Latexo schools, before graduating in 2022 as Senior Captain of the cheerleading squad and Prom Queen. Brown ran track all four years and stayed active in “Christians in Action,” finishing as vice-president.
We were able to catch Brown on a quick break from work at Davy Crockett Drug, where many might recognize her working the counter, always with a humble smile and helpful demeanor. Few realize how much this young lady has on her plate, dealing with work, school and now helping her family get moved to a new place and put their life together after the house fire.
When the family got the call about the fire, they grabbed the baby from the church nursery and rushed home, worried about what they would find.
“He (Ronnie Colle) just said, ‘Get in the car – we gotta go!’” Brown recalled. “Hearing him on the phone saying everything’s gone – that hurt the most because everything was in that house. Then, getting there and finding out not everything was gone.”
Brown said she was able to save some things, although all those cheerleading trophies and other keepsakes cannot be replaced, such as all her competition shirts and jackets. She salvaged some of her clothes, too, although getting the smell of smoke out of them has not been easy.
While the material things can all be made good over time, Brown revealed the family was at a service that day they normally don’t attend, which may have been divine intervention since no one was home or injured in the fire.
“It’s hard, but we have each other,” Brown smiled. “We have to look at positive victories.”
Brown is taking online classes at Tyler Junior College, with the goal of becoming a speech therapist. Her last year competing with Elite is going well, helping to take her mind off getting back to normal. Her squad “Glory” recently won first place in their group and grand champion in their level. They will compete again Feb. 3 in Houston, with a few more meets before the end of the season.
The outpouring of support has been greatly appreciated, Brown said, from the donation of needed items, to old friends reaching out, to even some humor, making a bad situation just a little better.
Brown’s faith, in both God and herself, have played a big part in keeping her spirits high. She said this has all taught her to value what is most important in life. Even a cheer uniform plucked from the fire couldn’t hold her back.
“I’ve learned not to hold all your sentiment in physical items,” Brown concluded. “My uniform might have smelled a little smoky, but we still knocked out the competition.”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]