By Shae-Lynn Carlson

My dad, Hal Richard Hystad, passed away on March 10th, 2019. Losing him has undoubtedly been the most heartbreaking, painful experience I’ve had to endure. Although challenging, I chose to take this opportunity to tell a bit of his story, to give him the recognition he deserved but never asked for, and to illustrate how special he was to me. 600 words will never do his legacy justice, but it’s a good start.

Hal Hystad receiving recognition for saving a local woman from a fire.

My dad had a bursting heart of gold. A perfect story to support this statement is the time he showed immense bravery and compassion when he saved June Reid’s life by rescuing her from her burning home in 1993. He claimed that was one of the best things he ever did with his life, second to having his children.

Hal Hystad holding his daughter

He met my mom when she was already pregnant with me, and he accepted the challenge of raising a child he didn’t create. However, he never let me feel like anything less than family, as he supported, nurtured, and loved me to his absolute capacity. My brother Kyle, my sister Danni and I were everything to him, and he would do absolutely anything to support us. Sometimes all he had to offer was a tight hug, a kiss on the cheek and an “I love you sweetie,” but that was more than enough. I’d give anything to have one last hug.

Shae-Lynn and Hal at her graduation ceremony during the parent-child dance.

He was so proud of us. I could practically feel his face light up when I told him of my accomplishments over the

phone. He was always cheering my sister and I on in the bleachers during our basketball games. He wasn’t afraid to get emotional while showing his love, such as when he’d call me late at night choking back tears to tell me how proud he was of us, or when he sobbed tears of joy during my brother’s wedding.

He spent his younger days pushing boundaries and never said no to a challenge. He felled trees for a living and was incredibly good at it; at one point he was the highest-paid faller in the valley. He spent many years fishing, hunting, skydiving, racing cars and burning rubber. At 59 years old he tried mountain biking for the first time. When he hopped off the bike his legs turned to jelly, and he hardly had the strength to push his truck’s clutch in – man, did we laugh.

Many say they’ll never forget his smile and contagious laughter. He had jokes and stories for days and would say and do the most ridiculous things to get a chuckle out of someone. He loved to dance – I remember rolling my eyes and feeling embarrassed watching him do the loose noodle, but he never cared about how he looked, only how he felt.

Hal poses with his kids.

Even as I dream about him now, he’s doing what he did best: being goofy and healing my heart through laughter. His sweet, loveable personality is something I’ll always admire.