Groundbreaking. Playful. Inspiring.

This year’s “Northern Lights” — a dozen Minnesotans we lost in 2013 — left legacies that move, amuse and amaze. Some were firsts: the first woman to lead an Indian tribe here, the first Somali immigrant elected to public office. Another was the state’s last surviving Tuskegee Airman. One tangled us in a game called Twister. They were athletes, inventors and the face of kindness during disasters. “It is amazing to me how one person’s admission can inspire someone, and you have inspired my son,” the mother of a dyslexic boy wrote on the website of Vince Flynn upon hearing that the bestselling author, who also grappled with dyslexia, had died. From suburban cross-country meets to Twin Cities rock music stages to State Fair mini-doughnut booths, their lives touched many, making and remaking Minnesota.

This year’s “Northern Lights” pushed at barriers — making room for women and immigrants, rising above racism, thinking outside the box to change the way we shop and play, singing in the face of cancer. It was hard to keep it to just a dozen. Many, many we lost this year led remarkable lives that illuminated what it means to be a Minnesotan. So this is a partial list, an attempt to capture the range of personalities, talents and fortitude that propel our state forward. Some were born to wealth and power; others struggled toward it and cleared a path for more to follow. Some were lost far too young, while others graced us with lives long and rich. They leave us lessons in rising above obstacles and living lives full of meaning, fun and hope.

Click here to see the Northern Lights project.