TWIN FALLS — A painting of a pond scene with a water lily and a frog is displayed in the front lobby of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley.
Hundreds of children and their parents who come in and out of the Twin Falls club may not realize there’s a deeper significance behind the artwork. But a small plaque beneath it shows it’s dedicated to a woman named Lilly.
Lilly Morse, 35, was a Twin Falls High School alumna and program aide at the club in the early 2000s, working directly with children. She later moved to Pocatello.
She was reported missing and endangered in October. Later that month, the Jerome County Sheriff’s Office announced her body was found under the I.B. Perrine Bridge.
The coroner ruled she died as a result of injuries from the fall, the Idaho State Journal reported. Her unlocked vehicle was also found near the bridge.
Morse had severe bipolar disorder and killed herself, said her mother, Laura Luckey, who lives near Eugene, Ore.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley dedicated the painting in Morse’s memory June 23. Her family members and friends were in attendance.
“We were proud and honored to hang that painting in our lobby,” said Lindsey Westburg, executive director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley.
The artist, Maria Larson, lives in the Sandpoint area. Morse was her daughter’s best friend in Twin Falls. Larson lived in Twin Falls for 15 years, and used to own a downtown art gallery and frame shop.
Her daughter Lindsay Hofman, who lives in Spokane, Wash., met Morse through track and basketball while they were students at Twin Falls High School.
“We hit it off right away,” Hofman said. “She was gregarious and outgoing.”
Hofman described her friend as a “ball of light” and someone who shared her competitive nature.
Larson and her family ended up moving to the Sandpoint area when the girls were 16 — shortly after Morse was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“I don’t paint paintings with a lot of symbolism,” Larson said. “I just paint. But there were things about the painting that just seemed to fit.”
The painting of the pond scene shows shadows over the water “that I think are sort of symbolic of what Lilly went through,” Larson said.
Morse struggled hard with bipolar disorder, she said. “For us, I know she was going through a struggle, but she was just such a positive light.”
Morse was “so determined to bloom” and was tenacious, Larson said.
Hofman spoke with her friend a little more than a week before she went missing. “Every time we talked, we just picked up where we left off,” she said.
Around that time, Larson had started working on a painting of a lily — a project she’d wanted to pursue for a long time that was unrelated to Morse. Then, she got a phone call from her daughter saying Morse was missing.
After her friend’s death, Hofman wanted to keep the piece of artwork and insisted on buying it from her mother.
As a Christmas gift, Hofman’s mother gave her a similar painting of two water lilies — one symbolizing Hofman and one symbolizing Morse. It’s now hanging in Hofman’s living room.
“That really freed me up to let go of the one she originally did,” she said.
Now, the original piece is hanging in the front lobby at the Boys & Girls Club.
“It was touching that they thought so much of her that they would do this painting and bring it to the Boys & Girls Club,” Luckey said.
Twin Falls County Commissioner Don Hall used to be executive director of the Boys & Girls Club. He hired Morse as a program aide shortly after he started in the position in 2000.
“Lilly had such boundless energy that eventually I put her in charge of sports and recreation,” Hall said, adding she showed a “true love for those kids.”
Morse dealt with a lot of challenges growing up, Hall said, and she wanted to give of herself and help children. He described her as an “incredibly sweet, genuine human being.”
Morse was a student at the College of Southern Idaho while she worked at the Boys & Girls Club, Hall said. She left her job at the club after a couple of years, when she moved away to continue her education.
Morse earned an associate degree at CSI and then a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana.
She had worked with other Boys & Girls Clubs and youth organizations, too, Hall said.
“Lilly loved the Boys & Girls Club so much that she tried to start one in Pocatello,” Luckey said.
Her daughter worked at clubs in Boise and Hawaii, too. She was also a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service in the Boise area and took up boxing as a sport.
Hall said he stayed in contact with Morse on and off throughout the years. “She had such a good heart and she will be gravely missed.”