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Photographer helps Massillon teen capture legacy and love in senior pictures

Logan Laubacher wanted to honor his father's memory. The photographer he entrusted understood his vision and knew exactly how to do it.

MASSILLON, Ohio — Logan Laubacher remembers the day his world changed forever.

"I came downstairs. I just saw my aunt, my mom's cousin, my Grandma. And at that point I knew something was off and some wasn't okay. I think by that point, I had already figured out what was going on and I just needed to hear somebody say it to know that it was like real, not like this had actually happened and my life would change forever. I'd be different than everybody else because I have a different outlook on life, family, friends, school."

That day was Tuesday, May 13, 2014. 

Logan's dad, Danny Laubacher collapsed and died suddenly just three days before his 40th birthday. He spent much of his career in law enforcement at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Post in Wooster. 

Credit: Ashley Escola
Trooper Daniel Laubacher died on May 13th, 2014. The cause of death is believed to be cardiac arrhythmia. A trooper with the Ohio State Patrol he was a patrolman in Wooster for 14 years.

"For me, it was definitely thinking about his senior pictures and kind of how I could try to incorporate his dad into all of these milestones that he's going to experience that even though he can't be here, you know, with us to be a part of them, He left a huge crater, a huge crater, for sure. You know, obviously for me and the kids our lives were shattered and fell apart and we had to figure out how over time to rebuild that," said Logan's mom, Jennifer. 

They turned to photographer Ashley Escola

"Photography tells the story of your life."

It started as a hobby for Escola who loved to capture her own children in their element, rather than in a posed or scripted photo, she explained. 

"I just wanted to capture them and preserve that in the moment. So that became the passion of, of what I really loved about photography."

Senior photos, weddings, babies and family photos followed over the years. 

Credit: Ashley Escola
Logan's wish was an incredible honor for photographer Ashley Escola, but it also weighed heavily on her. She had to explore depths of her own experience with loss, to help provide the most fitting photos for Logan.

"Logan's session was extremely unique. His mom, Jennifer reached out to me and wanted to capture his dad into the session. Right away there was a session because I knew that she was part of the blue family, the police family," Escola explained. Her own husband is a police officer. 

She also understood tragedy and the profound feeling of loss when someone who makes up a huge part of your life, passes away. 

Ashley could think only of Tyson, her brother. 

A 2004 Wooster High School graduate, Tyson Snyder served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years, including two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

After his service, he became a commercial helicopter pilot. In January of 2018, Tyson tragically died in a helicopter crash in Wood County. He was 32 years old. 

Credit: Ashley Escola
Tyson Snyder, Ashley's younger brother, died in a helicopter crash in 2018 at the age of 32. She used her own experience with tragedy to find creativity and purpose with Logan's senior photos.

"I started to think, if my brother Tyson would have had a son what would I have done? How would I have portrayed those photos to preserve Tyson? But, at the same time, bring in uniqueness to this child, you know, of who they are and just kind of blend the two things," she said. 

Jennifer and Logan met Ashley at the Wooster State Highway Patrol Post. The troopers, many of whom knew Danny and still miss him to this day, accommodated with cruisers as they stood on the sidelines watching their friend's son mark such an important milestone. 

"I wanted to know what the turnout was going to be for the picture. Like, I wanted to see them almost instantly, as soon as they were taken," said Logan who could feel how special the session was, not just for him, but for everyone there. 

"Knowing that you have passion, that you have love for somebody and that you really care and that you want to use your grief and tragedy somehow to bring positive light and to gift it to someone else. I don't think with tragedy you always have to default to pain. Tragedy changes you. It changes your perspective. Tragedy can bring a lot of beauty into your life and that you can have a different vision. You can have a different spark in your creativity, " Ashley said. 

"But I think with tragedy comes growth. I am not the same person that I was seven and a half years ago," said Jennifer. 

Credit: Ashley Escola
Logan is applying to colleges, and hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement.

" I'm blessed that I can do this for Logan. So it really just was a, it was a full circle of blessing. I think that I could give to them. And that felt really good for me. And it just blessed me more than what they know," said Ashley. 

Logan is currently working on college applications and finishing up his senior year at Jackson High School. His father continues to guide him, as Logan currently plans on pursuing a future career in law enforcement.