Autumn Mehl remembered for smile, love of life

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Autumn Mehl did not need music to dance.

The 29-year-old mother of five was a popular fitness instructor at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, whose energetic Zumba classes not only helped hundreds of people shed weight, but also lifted their spirits.

Autumn Mehl

Autumn Mehl

Her husband, Alex, said Autumn was also well-known inside their Berrien Springs home for doing dance moves while performing everyday chores, like washing dishes or folding clothes.

Alex said he would watch his wife a while before saying he didn’t hear any music.

She would reply with, “You don’t have to have music to dance — you are the music.”

It’s that personality and spirit, combined with a killer smile, that Alex said he would miss most about Autumn, who died in a car accident over the weekend.

“She had a smile that could warm your soul,” he said. “Even if we fought or disagreed. … Whatever it was, she could smile and I wouldn’t be mad anymore.

“She was an amazing person.”

Autumn and Steven Rough were found dead Sunday morning in a vehicle that had driven into a creek near the intersection of Bond and Beeson Streets in Niles Township.

They were reported missing Saturday after being last seen leaving Jay’s Lounge early Saturday morning, according to police.

More than 200 people attended a candlelight vigil outside the YMCA for Autumn and Steven.

Alex said the outpouring of support from the community has meant the world to him and their children, ages 8, 8, 7, 6 and 4.

“It is amazing to me that one person can mean so much to so many people,” he said.

YMCA Fitness Director Lacey Peters, who considered Autumn a best friend, said Autumn was a model employee who was loved by staff and members alike.

“She was always there giving her time with no expectation of getting anything back,” Peters said. “She will be remembered by her smile and laughter. She always had a smile on her face and was very uplifting, whether it was at work or anywhere else, she was constantly happy, positive and encouraging.”

Another friend, Iesha Davis, said she met Autumn through fitness classes at the YMCA several years ago.

They wound up becoming regular “gym buddies,” working out together and even giving each other nicknames.

“I called her my ‘sugar cookie babe,’” Iesha said. “She called me ‘cookie.’

“My fondest memories are of going to the gym with her, laughing, working out and having fun. Just being goofy girls.”