DARRINGTON – Ashley Griffiths could fire a gun, remodel a house or catch a fish as well as any one.
But she was no tomboy.
In the tiny mountain town where she spent all 17 years of her life, Ashley’s trendy purses and pink nail polish were every bit as legendary as her powerful tennis swing.
The popular Darrington High School student who dreamed of one day earning a business degree died early Wednesday. Police say she lost control of her pickup truck, veered off the Mountain Loop Highway and slammed into a tree.
An 18-year-old classmate who was a passenger in the truck was treated for minor injuries at a nearby health clinic.
The accident’s cause remains under investigation.
Ashley was one of 66 students in the incoming senior class at Darrington High. Everyone knew her.
“Darrington feels like an emptier place,” said Teresa Stemme, whose son was Ashley’s friend.
On Thursday, flowers, an angel statue and a wood cross with “Ashley” written on it leaned against a tree where Ashley died. About 200 people had poured into her family’s home to share memories and offer their condolences.
Ashley was the only child of Jeff and OnaMae Griffiths. Family friends said the teen was exceptionally close with her mother. As they worked on household remodeling projects or went shopping, Ashley would talk with her mother about boys, school and her hopes and dreams, secrets many daughters doggedly protect.
Ashley grew up riding horses and helping her parents with their construction business.
The family once lived outside of town in a place they called “Ashley Estates.” When they moved inside city limits, Ashley helped build the cozy, wood-framed house.
“The one thing I can say about her is she loved her family very much,” Ashley’s aunt Donna Tackett said.
Her aunt on Thursday sat at the Griffiths’ kitchen table surrounded by friends.
Ashley “was always trying to make things better; make things work out,” she said.
In school, Ashley was a standout tennis player. She also had an artistic flair.
Last year she redesigned the yearbook. She replaced the traditional green-and-gold logger cover with a forest scene. For a title, she borrowed lyrics from a country song, highlighting Darrington’s roots: “Back where I come from.”
School secretary Val Smith said Ashley was a fun-loving girl who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She loved cruising through town in her beat-up gray pickup, waving at everyone she passed.
She did all the things boys typically do.
But her bedroom was all girl.
Dried roses dangled over her bed. A ceramic sculpture of a high-heel pump shoe was on one wall. Nearby were framed paintings of Paris street scenes and Carnivale masks.
On Thursday, a pair of blue jeans were crumpled by the door and a bottle of Gatorade, half empty, was on the dresser.
On the bottom shelf of Ashley’s bookcase was the binder where she had carefully preserved school work, starting in her freshman year. That’s something Darrington High School students do as a school project.
Ashley’s binder was three-quarters finished.
“All of us will be feeling a variety of emotions: shock, sadness, and confusion,” Principal Dave Holmer wrote in a letter to parents Thursday. “What is most important now is that we care for and support each other.”
Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3402 or email@example.com.