Faced with only six weeks to live, Dave fought for every benchmark…watching one daughter graduate college, having another daughter move from Vermont to Montana to be closer, attending two son’s high school graduation, and awarding his two youngest sons gold medals at Special Olympics.
After these goals were met, he started hospice care. And just like the marathons he ran in his younger years, he ran across the ultimate finish line on his 26th day of palliative care.
He is survived by his wife Holly; six children LeeAnn, Bobbie, Robby, Cody, Curt, and Colton; his father, Robert; and three siblings, Nevin, Robert, and Harriet. His dear mother, Harriet, passed away two years ago and was waiting to meet him in his final moments.
He was 49 years old, and was a deputy with the Sander’s County Sheriff’s Office, as well as a police officer for the City of Thompson Falls. He was also the Law Enforcement Torch Run Coordinator for Sanders County, and awarded medals to athletes at the Special Olympics summer and winter games every year.
His law enforcement career began as an 18 year-old at the San Bernadino (Calif.) Sheriff’s Office. Then he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a K-9 dog handler and trainer. With eight years in service he fell in a mountain climbing accident while stationed at Sembach Air Base in West Germany, shattering his spine and forcing him into medical retirement. He learned to walk again, willing himself to transition into a civilian law enforcement career.
He attended the Vermont Police Academy, then worked at the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Dept, and Hartford White River Junction Police Dept., in Vermont. He later worked at Naval Station Great Lakes as their Physical Security Manager, then transferred to the Pentagon where he was an Anti-Terrorism Specialist (sniper). It was there that he met Holly, and they moved to Montana in 2003, where he resumed his law enforcement career in Sanders County.
Despite the varied positions he held, he always said that being a “hometown cop” here was his favorite job.
Dave was involved in so many projects with work and community; he wasn’t left with much personal time. But you couldn’t find an individual more giving to his community, day or night, and he did it willingly and voluntarily.
As the Animal Cruelty Investigator for Sanders County, many abused horses were saved by him, and many dogs and cats placed in loving homes. From childhood he was always a friend to anything with four legs.
While on hospice Dave was cared for by an angel with invisible wings, Nurse Sharon. She made everything brighter and allowed him to still have dignity and control of his life. As Dave is now gone, we will also miss her terribly. And without Dr. Nelson’s attention to detail, we would not have caught his cancer so early, and referred to Dr. Nichols at the Montana Cancer Center. Dave would want to acknowledge both of these fine gentlemen. And also Nurse Joannie at the Cancer Center who always sang “Hello David Hedley” to the digital tune of the blood pressure machine. She made us laugh on days when there was not a single thing to laugh about.
A memorial service will be held at the Thompson Falls High School Sept. 11, Patriot’s Day, at 7 p.m. If you are a member of emergency services or the military (active or retired) please honor Dave by attending in uniform or insignia. Special Olympians please come in uniform also. And those who have Torch Run shirts please wear them in his honor. A private family gathering will occur later, so that Curt and Colton can remember in their own special way.
Dave wasn’t a flower kind of guy, so we request that donations be made to Montana Special Olympics, Attn: Terri, Box 3507, Great Falls, MT 59403. Please also consider giving blood in Dave’s memory when the Red Cross comes to town. Without it, many cancer patients cannot live.
His life was saved many times by the units of blood he received (around 70 in all, spread over 11 cycles of chemo). Donated blood only lasts 42 days, so without constant replenishments, there would be no supply available and patients would perish before their time. Thank you to all who donate. You truly do save lives.
And finally, if you’re lucky enough to have an animal that Dave rescued, please give it a special treat and a pat on the head from him. Often.