The five Hayden kids are saddened to report the passing of their father, Richard Allen Hayden Sr., 70, in the evening hours of Sept. 13, 2012, after a valiant three-year battle with lung cancer. In the comfort of his home, with family around, his favorite sport, NFL football on his big screen TV, he departed life as he lived it - quiet, dignified, unafraid.
Born in Austin, Minn., Sept. 25, 1941, dad grew up, working on his dad's farm and doing various jobs in and around Rochester, Minn. In 1960, after reading a book about living off the land for $10 a year, plus burnout from working three jobs at once, Dad decided to make a drastic life change. Packing up his old truck and driving the rough gravel Alaska Highway, he moved to Alaska.
After nearly starving his first winter and moving from place to place during the next nine years, he decided he had had enough and headed for Oregon to spend the winter and rethink his decision. After fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic, he decided that leaving was not such a good idea.
After fueling his car, he turned back to Alaska. Hurtling across the Johnson's Crossing bridge in the Yukon Territory, he spotted a young woman and a boy hitchhiking. Stopping and picking them up, he learned they were heading to Whitehorse, where they lived. He learned the woman's name was Shannon Henry, and the boy was her brother, George.
When he let them out of the car in Whitehorse, Shannon asked him for his address. They wrote to each other for three years, and dad invited her to come to Alaska. Shannon would become Mrs. Richard Allen Hayden on May 4, 1972. Dad and mom started the bush life in earnest, living in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge first at Grayling Lake, and Big Fish Lake and on the beautiful and wild Sheenjek River.
Bush living was Dad's passion, and he became a master trapper, hunter, rifle marksman, fisherman, dog musher and all those skills he passed onto the five kids who followed.
Bush life to Dad was an art, and he made it look easy. Dad wore many hats, and he proved that with the hard decision to move his family to Fairbanks, but he did it with grace. He started a little business to keep occupied, and in his late 50s, decided to learn how to fly. He would become a skilled Bush pilot, thus opening the door to resume his and mom's beloved Bush life, even though it was only part time.
To say Dad was tough would be an understatement. In 2010, after he underwent chemotherapy and his cancer went into remission, dad, then 68, would spend one more summer visiting his beloved Brooks Range cabins, moose hunting with his kids, grandkids and the woman he loved, and visiting many friends.
He never stopped living life, loving life and his family. After the loss of Shannon, mom, in January 2012, the woman who he was married to for 40 years, he pushed on for another brave eight months for his kids, even after his cancer returned.
We will all miss Dad. With his passing comes the end of an era, a legacy and shoes that will be hard to fill. The skills he and mom honed both in the Bush and city are passed on and will be cherished by the five kids and the grandkids.
Richard Sr. is survived by his five kids, Richard Jr., Daniel, Susan, who gave dad his skill as an emergency doctor when she was born unexpectedly at Grayling Lake in 1975, Duane and youngest, Judi Ann; his grandkids, David and Jonathan, and youngest, Ayanna; his sisters, Jean (Dick) Louks of Mantorville, Minn., and Joyce Wood of Henry, Ill.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 40 years, Shannon; sister, Rosemary; and his parents, Rosella and Oliver, both of Rochester, Minn.
A celebration of Richard's life will be held from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall. A dinner will be served and you are welcome to bring a covered dish. All are welcome.