Years ago, on a piece of land in Mendon owned by the Bear River Land Conservancy, Crista Sorenson and her daughters searched for the Ute ladies’-tresses, a rare and threatened species of orchid.
Spending a few hours in the Mendon Meadow Preserve to locate the small flower and aid in its preservation was just one of the many things that Sorenson filled her days with. The flowers were among the many plants, animals and people who would feel her caring presence over the years.
Following a severe stroke last week, Sorenson died on Wednesday at 44 years old, leaving a hole in many hearts, programs and organizations all across the community.
A weeklong hospital stay in the McKay-Dee ICU during a time of extra precautions due to COVID-19 meant Sorenson couldn’t be surrounded by the many people who wanted to be by her side. The community rushed to social media to share stories, photos and memories about Sorenson, and the tribute has continued in the days following her death.
“Crista used her ‘stick it to the man’ mentality to enact real change within the community she loved and cherished as her home,” said Crista’s daughter Kathryn Sorenson. “Everyone she met she respected and unconditionally loved. She was the most accepting, encouraging, and warm individual this world will ever know.”
Cory Wilkinson, Sorenson’s husband, said the family was able to see her on the day she died.
“Beyond all of the many things she was involved in outside of the home, she loved to garden, cook, and take care of her children,” Wilkinson said. “She was a true joy to be around.”
Close to a decade ago, Jack Greene, a longtime community activist and former Logan High School teacher, first met Sorenson at USU.
“I just became an admirer of her as a mother and as an activist, scientist, social organizer etc.,” Greene said. “She had a lot of similar skills to my own and we connected on many different fronts.”
After the two bonded over conservancy projects at the university, Greene and Sorenson worked together in the Bear River Land Conservancy, the Bridgerland Audubon Society and several other events over the years.
“She cared about how people and nature were treated,” Greene said. “It is quite unique for an individual to have that awareness of people and nature. It can be tricky to commit yourself to both worlds. But she did, she spent so much time making things better for the human and non-human world.”
Mary Laine, the manager of Cache Valley Gardeners’ Market, said Sorenson can be best described as someone who would always fill a hole when she saw one.
Laine said Sorenson loved the market and used it as a way to catch up with all of her different friends from the many organizations she was a part of. As assistant manager of the market, Sorenson spent a lot of time with Laine organizing different market-related events.
Sorenson’s green thumb led her to oversee the community garden at Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection, a local nonprofit organization. The garden is a place where refugees and immigrants could plant and grow food, primarily food from their home countries, to use in their meals at home.
Sorenson took it a step further as she helped connect those she worked with at the garden with other resources through USU Extension programs.
“I saw a lot of myself in her; she was a doer and so am I,” Laine said. “But she seemed to handle the constant juggling of things better than I do. We were a little bit alike in a lot of ways which meant we would sometimes butt heads in the way two strong women do, but it never bothered us.”
Laine said Sorenson was one to jump right into anything without asking any questions and that is exactly what she did with the Logan Pride Foundation a few years ago.
“The LGBTQ community really needed a champion,” Greene said. “When Crista picked up on that, it was marvelous. I knew they needed someone like her to turn things around. She helped open their world, and help the community be more accepting. Just look around and you can see what she has done.”
Just four months ago, the Logan Pride Center opened next to the Logan Tabernacle in downtown Logan.
The center has become a refuge and homelike space for many, just as Sorenson hoped it would be when it first opened. As vice president of the Logan Pride Foundation and by working with the USU Inclusion Center, Sorenson spearheaded much of the growth seen in the LGBTQ community since the foundation first started in 2016.
“It is important to be involved and help make my community into what I want it to be,” Sorenson said on the day the center officially opened. “We are here. We are not going anywhere. We do this so we can have a healthy, kind community.”
While not present in the community physically anymore, her influence is captured in the dozens of Facebook posts from members of the community reflecting on the change she brought and vowing to keep it up.
“Losing her has left a huge hole in the community,” Greene said. “Hopefully that void will be filled over time, but it will take 10 people to do it.”
According to the family, there will not be a funeral service at this time. However, for those who wish to make a donation, checks or cash can be sent to 80 Park Circle, Logan, UT 84321, or to the Venmo account Kathryn-Sorenson-3.