Caden Vincent Odell and Erin Thompson

Amber Young, sister of Erin Thompson, leads the singing of “This Little Light of Mine” at the end of Friday’s memorial service for Thompson and her son, Caden Odell. Nate Chute/Daily Inter Lake
‘Brightest beacons of light’
Story by NICHOLAS LEDDEN/Daily Inter Lake, 2009

Hundreds of mourners attended a memorial service Friday for a Columbia Falls woman and her 13-year-old son who died last week in a crash on U.S. 93. (The teen  driver is being charged with homicide)

Erin Thompson, 35, and her son Caden Odell were remembered as ‘spiritual giants’ who added substance to every life they touched. “They enlarged our capacity to love and live, and we’re thankful for that,” said the Rev. John Gregg, a pastor at the Christian Center Assembly of God Church in Kalispell, where the service was held.

A lover of music, Odell attended Kalispell Middle School and was a member of the school’s jazz band, which performed during the ceremony. He played the drums among other instruments. Odell’s family has established the Caden Vincent Odell Memorial Fund through Three Rivers Bank to encourage others to experience the joy of music. Thompson’s sister, Amber Young, told mourners Thompson had an expansive personality that made others happier in her presence.

“She was willing to meet you at whatever depth,” Young said. An outgoing person, Thompson offered a ‘reflective quality” to all people.

“No community wants two of its brightest beacons of life to be extinguished, yet eternal life continues,” said the Rev. Chrysta Bourne, who gave Odell’s eulogy.

Part of a tight-knit extended family, Odell was a free spirit who loved hiking, camping and snowboarding. He was learning to cook with a new set of cookbooks and exploring the workings of a video camera given to him by his father’s fiancee. “He loved playing in the woods… and all things ‘boy,'” said Bourne, who shared with mourners stories from Odell’s life written down by his family. On one trip to his grandparents’ Idaho home, Odell convinced his grandfather to haul a junked lawnmower back from the dump to use for parts in a go-cart. He loved exhilarating experiences, Bourne said.

Odell also had a very close relationship with his father, Craig. “Their relationship was an example that will be hard to equal by anyone,” Bourne said. “One of Caden’s best days was when his father let him play hooky to go snowboarding on nine inches of fresh powder on his 13th birthday.” In his father’s words, Caden was “the best thing I’ve ever done,” Bourne told mourners.

Odell possessed a “deep tenderness and gentleness that was beyond his 13 years,” Bourne continued. “Simply put, he brought joy into other people’s lives.”

A fellow student has started an online blog and guestbook in Odell’s memory at

“Caden, without a doubt, was a unique, well-advanced soul… He will be deeply, deeply missed,” Bourne said.

After Frank Miele, Daily Inter Lake managing editor and friend of the family, read from a memorial column which will appear in Sunday’s edition of the paper, family members played a video slide show of pictures from Odell and Thompson’s lives. Thompson, who worked at a Whitefish spa, was remembered as a wonderful mother who loved to dance. “I will always continue to see her radiant smile in my mind’s eye,” said Alex Campbell, who had been friends with Thompson for 30 years. “It just lit a room up… It was just contagious.”

Thompson’s death should be a reminder to each person to cherish every moment of life, Campbell said. “She was my partner in all things goofy, and fun, and a perpetual spunkster,” Young recalled. “We always realized, from a very young age, how strong our bond was and how lucky we were to have it.”

Thompson, who was four months pregnant, was northbound on U.S. 93 near the intersection with Church Drive about 8:30 p.m. on March 19 when her Subaru Forester was struck head-on. A southbound Pontiac Grand Am driven by a 16-year-old girl appears to have crossed completely into oncoming traffic, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. That girl, who has not been identified, is in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with severe injuries. (The offender was later charged with two homicides for deliberately causing the crash to allegedly kill herself.)

Obituary Name:
Caden Vincent Odell

Birth date: December 20, 1995
Death date: March 19, 2009


Caden Vincent Odell, 13 Caden was tragically taken along with his mother and unborn sibling on March 19, 2009, as the result of an automobile accident north of Kalispell. The driver was a teenager who was allegedly trying to kill herself, but she deliberately plowed into the car and killed Caden and his mother. She is on trial charged as an adult in Montana for a double homicide.

Caden was born at home on Dec. 20, 1995 in Kalispell, to Erin Johnson and Craig Odell.  Caden was an only child but was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his sibling. Caden was an eternal optimist – in his eyes the cup was forever half full, if not overflowing.   He was a lover of nature, camping, hiking, and exploring the world. He was a fearless, uninhibited, free spirit who loved exhilarating experiences like roller coasters and snowboarding. He could also find interest and beauty in the mundane, and bring it to life for those around him.   Caden was a tenderhearted old soul with a vibrant young heart.  He possessed boundless energy, and loved climbing as high as he could on anything he could. Caden was loved deeply by all who knew him.  He knew that there was no shortage of people who loved him, and he reflected that right back.  His generosity and ability to credit and include others was unending. He treasured his friends.  He loved his family, and always made his extended relatives feel like celebrities when they came to visit from out of town.   In the womb he seemed to kick in perfect time, and he also arrived at the perfect moment, the hour that anxiously awaited family rolled into town, so his name was a nod to his cadence.  He kept and built that rhythm throughout his life, and was a dedicated drummer with a rhythmic swagger beyond his years.  But he was more than a drummer, he was a natural all-around musician.  He could easily make up songs, and could pick out melodies on any instrument he had on hand.  He enjoyed listening to a wide variety of music, and especially loved Coldplay, Modest Mouse, and his uncle’s band Down and Above. He was a brilliant boy that had an uncanny sense of humor, even from the youngest age.  He was quick-witted, and goofy in the best way possible.  He was amazingly creative as a songwriter, a moviemaker, a photographer, a storyteller, and loved to hear and tell a great joke.  He loved to rhyme (all the time) and was always a spirit lifter. He loved expression, be it through dancing, making music, drawing, being overly-dramatic, or making funny faces.   He could easily interact with adults just as well as he could kids his own age.  And he inspired both adults and kids who knew him.   Caden was excited to become a big brother, and didn’t have a preference of boy or girl, “as long as it’s a drummer”. Caden is survived by his father Craig Odell and girlfriend Sarah Elledge, his stepfather Jason Thompson, his grandparents Laurine and Chuck Meyer, Wesley and Rosa Lee Odell, Vince & Dianna Johnson, his uncle Thaddeus Johnson, his aunt & uncle Amber & David Young, his aunt Lindsay Howard, his uncle Brad Odell, his aunt & uncle Darren and Alisa Odell, his aunts Darcy and Cherise Odell, and his uncle & aunt Tres & Erika Meyer, Allison & Terry Cox, and many cousins and extended family.   Caden was a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air.  He will remain forever in the hearts of all who were lucky enough to know him.