Celebrating life stories...



Memorial created 01-15-2008 by
Howard Yellen
Thor David Hesla
April 1 1962 - January 14 2008

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01-15-2008 9:52 PM -- By: Jim DeMay,  From: Minneapolis, MN  

I met Thor in 1990 on a MN Congressional race. He always had a lot of fun. We usually ended up telling Minnesota and Norwiegan jokes. We spent plenty of time in DC tagging along with Nick Flagler and creating trouble. Thor was a hell of a good guy and will be missed.

01-15-2008 9:50 PM -- By: Heidi Deane,  From: Cleveland  

Thor, I am honored to have known you. Your authenticity and "balls out" approach to life is so rare and so beautiful. I know you went right up to the cool table in heaven. The world won't be the same without you in it.


01-15-2008 9:44 PM -- By: Becki Ames,  From: Cali  

this is so hard to believe and so very sad....

01-15-2008 9:04 PM -- By: Douglas Berman,  From: Bradley for President Campaign  

Thor's on-going work made all of us who came to know him during the 2000 effort feel proud, and helped us remember that each of us can make a small positive impact on our world.

May his memory be for a blessing.

01-15-2008 9:03 PM -- By: Cathy Rouse,  From: Atlanta  

I knew Thor in high school and my sister married one of his best friends, so I'd hear about him every now and then though I hadn't seen him in years. I'm in shock and deeply saddened by the news of his death. He was always larger than life but that quality in no way makes up for the fact that his life was cut short decades too soon. My deepest sympathies go out to all his family and friends.

01-15-2008 8:57 PM -- By: Nancy Wilck,  From: Arlington  

Maren, Bernard, Olivia, and David,

We are so, so sorry for your loss. These pages have given me a sense of a man I never had the pleasure to meet and I can only imagine the loss you must be feeling. Our thoughts are with you all.


01-15-2008 8:51 PM -- By: Mike Walsh,  From: Harrisburg, PA  

I worked with Thor on the Bradley campaign in 2000 and learned a lot from him. He taught others by his example, and his tireless dedication to the causes and campaigns of which he was a part.

My condolences to all of his friends and family.

01-15-2008 8:36 PM -- By: Shannon Mudd,  From: Phoenixville, PA  

I am fortunate to count Thor as a friend from college days as Emory. His graduation jig on stage with his father at graduation helped make it memorable for all of us.

01-15-2008 8:35 PM -- By: Paul and Wendy Donnan,  From: Albany Georgia by way of Emory class of 84  

Thor was a dear friend who we will miss. We were in San Fran when he was in the late 80's. He did not score many tries at Emory but did excel at the post game party. "Shoot the Boot!!!"

01-15-2008 8:24 PM -- By: Sarah Farnsworth,  From: Bethesda, MD  

To never hear that laugh again, the insightful and laser sharp dissection of US politics and politicians, the loud and raucous debates over what was the issue of the minute, hour or day. I am mad, so mad at this senseless death of a man who had so much to give and gave so much. Thor, I will miss you. From the basement of the CNN Center in Atlanta in '88 to Kabul I have been privileged to be your friend. When the Thoriccane would blow into town, I would catch up on the news, share and debate ideas and then part ways until the next time he came through never once believing there would not be a next time. No more Big Letters, no more drinks, dinner, while solving the woes of the world. I have lost a dear friend and my life will be a little less bright. Goodbye Thor -- thanks for the exciting 20 years!! Sarah

01-15-2008 8:16 PM -- By: Kathy Landwehr,  From: Decatur, GA  

It is very hard to imagine a world without Thor. Though I heard from him infrequently and saw him even more infrequently, I somehow manage to have any number of bizarre and fond memories. The world will be a less interesting place without him.

01-15-2008 7:35 PM -- By: Clara West,  From:  

Thor, Thor, Thor- We did have some laughs sweetheart, your in my thoughts and prayers-

01-15-2008 7:33 PM -- By: Nicole Harburger,  From: Washington DC  

I was fortunate to work with Thor in 2000 and in the beginning of the 02 cycle. Thor leaves an unforgettable impression on everyone - his unbelievable humor, his big laugh, his wicked opinions, his total fascination with politics, his desire to make and keep friends at every stop along the way... all these traits are notorious. I just wish he could be here to see the way his community of friends and colleagues is celebrating him... What a great loss. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones...

01-15-2008 7:33 PM -- By: Whitney Burns,  From: Springfield, VA  

Thor was initially just a concept to me, and one I didn't much like. As I worked on a project, long before meeting him, I found him increasingly infuriating. Then there was the day rummaging through a box of messy records I came across, all bolded and 26 point type in various fonts: THOR's BIG UGLY TO DO LIST. Underneath in tiny font was a list of fifty or so tasks, the first being, Get to the gym and work out. The complexity was becoming evident. There was the first phone call a few months later, the matter of fact explanations, back and forth, and my project was pulled together reasonably well. Later he was in town and called me for a beer. I didn't want to, but decided to I needed to meet this guy face to face. I'm sad for those who will not have that opportunity now. And thus I was WOWWED by his big heart! For the last ten years he has been bopping through my life, from resuscitating campaigns (I used to warn them: brace yourself!) to his mass Christmas appeals (I always thought of them fondly as Thors Big Ugly Christmas Letter), I was always glad to work with him, and hear from him, what he was up to, what his take on everything and whatever else. He was as interesting and dynamic a person as you run across. My sympathies to all family, friends and colleagues.

01-15-2008 7:29 PM -- By: The Miller Family,  From: Arlington, VA  

Although we had never met Thor, we are very saddened to hear of his passing. Maren, Bernard, Olivia and David please accept our heartfelt sympathy. Condolences to all who knew and loved Thor.

01-15-2008 7:24 PM -- By: Molly McWaters-Adkins,  From: Sarasota, FL  

We loved Thor and will miss his free spirit tremendously!!!

-Molly, Mark & Lily

01-15-2008 7:23 PM -- By: Abby Spring,  From: Washington, DC  

The last time I had dinner with Thor was at Sarah Farnsworth's house and with ample wine flowing we decided collectively that we could plot out an effective PR campaign to stop the killings in Darfur -- it all started with the best of intentions but by the end of the meal we somehow ended up with some type of comedy sketch using sock puppets against genocide -- well Thor's has that humor thing. We all will miss him so. Abby

01-15-2008 7:21 PM -- By: Larry Fish,  From: New York  

Stories like this have become such common place. You pick up the newspaper, turn on the TV or radio, it is there, thousands of innocent lives lost so unnecessarily. It is impossible not to build up insensitivity to it. That is, until it's about Thor. At the risk of being cliché, and NOTHING about Thor was cliché - The World is a far far less enjoyable place today.

It seems so impossible to even attempt to sum up Thor in this little blue box. He was lovable, reprehensible, charming, annoying, brilliant, idiotic, confident, insecure, awe inspiring, embarrassing, insightful, incoherent, a joy, a pain in the ass……….a friend……yes, beyond all question his was as loyal a friend as was ever created.

ANYONE who met Thor was immediately touched by him, and most times that touching was inappropriate.

Of all the words that anyone ever used to describe him, it could be that inappropriate was used more than any other. I always looked at that as part of his innate beauty. It really wasn’t that he was intrinsically inappropriate; it is that he had no boundaries, with himself or anyone else. He felt so close to everyone that he came in contact with that, in his mind, it was completely appropriate for him to speak exactly what was on his mind no matter how truly outlandish it was. I am sure right now he is telling God that he really messed up with the whole 7-day creation thing – “What was the f___ing rush? You really should have taken your time and thought things out more carefully. I mean what were you thinking when you created male patterned baldness?”

Come on now.... we all probably expected Thor to leave this planet a bit prematurely. Though personally, I thought his passing would have involved several tubs of cool-whip, swim fins & a snorkel and a mishap involving an electrical ceiling fan - certainly not this utter waste of one of the most precious souls that I ever had the distinct honor to call friend.

Dearest Thor, I will forever love and miss you.

I really hope that I have not been insensitive or upset anybody with my attempt at humor. To me it felt like the proper tribute. If I did offend anyone, I apologize, but I think Thor might have liked that even more. Krackatooooooow!

PS – Did anyone but me notice the extreme irony that in some way Thor’s untimely death can be attributed to the appearance of the Norwegian Foreign Minister?

01-15-2008 7:13 PM -- By: Cathleen Cotter,  From: St Paul, MN via Racine & Madison WI  

I was one of the locals on the infamous Peter Barca "Groundhog Day" campaign. Barca won by a razor thin margin & there was a recount--Thor was amoung those stranded in Kenosha, WI for weeks after the election. We ended up visiting the best resturaunts and jazz clubs in SE WI and Chicago, IL.

I heard from Thor periodically over the years--he once sent me a R-rated post card, suggesting I meet him in Paris for a week of fine food, good wine and.... I was appalled when I realized my then high-school aged daughter had brought the mail in that day. Thor thought that was hysterical.

I always assumed I would see him again one day.

01-15-2008 7:11 PM -- By: Greg Speed,  From: Washington DC  

I had not seen Thor for years until just about a week before he left. We had a fine time catching up and watching the baseball playoffs. His unique take on sports, politics, etc. were on full display that day and he made clear he relished the challenge ahead. In short, Thor was a really good guy and we will miss him very much.

01-15-2008 7:09 PM -- By: Nancy Kahnt Pevey,  From: Atlanta  

Thor and I had a complicated and silly relationship back in college. He once sent me a dartboard he'd made with his face all over it. Later we mellowed. On a visit in D.C., he taught me how to do a tequila shot (at lunchtime! scandalous!) Looking back, I probably should've drunk more tequila with Thor. When I got married, he gave us a gift certificate to Crate & Barrel for some oddball amount like $73.85, so that we would never forget him and his crazy gift. I hadn't seen him in several years, but I always enjoyed receiving his e-mails and can't believe I'll never meet up with him at Manuel's again. We will truly miss him.

01-15-2008 7:07 PM -- By: The McCabe Family,  From: The neighborhood  

Maren and Family, Lauren was truly sadden to hear of Thor's passing. She has some fond memories of him at your house. Unfortunately, the rest of our family didn't have the opportunity to meet Thor. But, we are all fond of the Craighead family so we feel your loss. There really are no appropriate words to say at a time like this.......but know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.

01-15-2008 6:58 PM -- By: Chris Dortch,  From: Nashville  

Another horrible tragedy in the name of a foolish war. I did not know Thor personally but his passing has deeply shaken at least two folks who I care about and Thor clearly meant a lot to them and will not soon be forgotten. My deepest condolences to Thors' family and friends.

01-15-2008 6:53 PM -- By: Shiva Balaghi,  From: NY  

I wrote this note about Thor to let some folks know who Thor was. I teach Middle East Studies at NYU and went to college with Thor:

"I'm calling with some nasty news," Andy said softly. "Thor Hesla was killed this morning in Kabul."

Our friend from college became the unidentified American in the newswire stories. Thor had the perfect name. He had bright yellow hair and a Vikingesque build that he flung with great vigor around the rugby field. At Emory, my closest friendships lay at the nexus of the theater and rugby crowd--a concentric group of friends. We helped each other survive the Reagan years at a frat-bound Southern school and stayed in touch in varying degrees through the years.

One sunny day, I was lying on the grass on the quad, reading. Anna Karenina. I'd decided to try to read those classics that had somehow passed me by. Half way through my book, Thor's shadow fell over me. "What you reading?" he asked. I showed him the book cover. He smirked and said, "She kills herself in the end." That was Thor, for you.

Andrew Ordover, the friend from college I stay in closest touch with, was the common link that kept Thor and I seeing each other through the years. When I was teaching at UVM in the 90s, I got a letter from Thor addressed to: "Shiva Balaghi, Professor, Univ of Vermont." Only Thor.

The last time I saw Thor was at Andy's 40th birthday party at Marie's Crisis in the West Village. Thor bought me some beers and we talked at the bar, surprised that in v different ways, we'd been living somewhat similar lives. Thor had gone on to work for democratic candidates as an advance man and then became a political consultant. He kept drinking beer, grew bigger, but developed a highly attuned sense of the world. He worked on development in Kosovo. He fell in love; we thought for a time that he might even marry.

Recently, he'd been working in Kabul. And today went to the Serena hotel, a safe haven. A friend who teaches law in CA had just visited Kabul last week to speak to a group of judges; amidst the greatest poverty she'd ever seen, she said, the Serena was the most luxurious and seemingly impenetrable place she'd ever stayed. I instinctively rang her tonight, needing to hear she was safe in CA again, nursing her flu.

My old friend Thor was the unidentified American who was shot randomly as Taliban militants ran through the hotel with their guns. Thor grew up to be a good man. Still loud, still big, still crude. But with a strong moral compass, a sense that what was wrong needed to be fixed, and a notion that the world was indeed a small place -- a small place we were all responsible for mending.

I know many die each day tragically, especially in cities like Kabul. This I know. But tonight, I put my head in my hands and weep for an unidentified American. Who was a good good guy.

01-15-2008 6:50 PM -- By: Cathy Duvall,  From: Wash DC  

Thor and I spent many successful and not so successful hours on the campaign trail. But his energy, excitement and devotion were part of everything he did. He is one of the people who constantly reminded me that you need to do what you believe in and have fun in the process.

He will be sorely missed.

01-15-2008 6:47 PM -- By: Buck Humphrey,  From: Minneapolis, MN  

I knew Thor through many campaigns, the '93 & '97 inaugurals and various conventions since 1992. Thor and I logged many advance trips together and I consider him a brother. I will miss a lot.

If ther is anything I can do to help, please let me know...

01-15-2008 6:35 PM -- By: Mitchell Lester,  From: San Francisco  

I worked with Thor on a congressional race in Arizona in 2002. I am so sad to hear this news. Thor was such a character. I don't think I ever laughed as hard than the late nights we drank after the campaign shut down for the evening. He was smart, witty and really cared about what he was doing. He will be missed. -Mitchell Lester

01-15-2008 6:15 PM -- By: Dan Wright,  From: West Virginia  

Worked with Thor in WV back in 2002, because of him we bought an old school bus for the campaign. The whole story playing in my head makes me laugh. What a sad loss.

All the love and condolences to his family

Peace to All

Danny Wright

01-15-2008 6:11 PM -- By: Susan DiLiddo Michels,  From: DC  

My condolences to Thor's family and all his friends on this tragic news. I didn't know Thor very well, but I did know that he was truly passionate about his beliefs, and I always admired him for that. And I was always struck by how inclusive and kind he was -- sending his updates and inviting everyone in his address book for drinks every time he was in town. We could use more of that in the world.

01-15-2008 6:09 PM -- By: Diane & Gerald Kurtz,  From: Hialeah, Fl  

We send our condolences to the family. We know the good that Thor was doing from our son Glenn who was a friend and worked with Thor over the years. Let's hope for PEACE in our lifetime... Diane and Jerry Kurtz


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