Celebrating life stories...



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

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02-04-2008 5:19 PM -- By: Diane Gould,  From: DC and Woodstock, VA  

Maren and Bernard,

I just learned of Thor's passing and I wanted to send you this small greeting.  All of the wonderful words that I heard and read about Thor have already been said and I hope that there is some comfort in knowing the huge place that he had in the world's heart.  I hope that you and your children are well and healthy.  George joins me in sending our love and warm thoughts.  Love, Diane

02-03-2008 9:42 AM -- By: Mary Ann Carrabino,  From: Scotland  

I did not know Thor.  I only met him once, briefly, when he accompanied Michael Pitts on a visit to Glasgow, Scotland in the mid-eighties.  Having spent the past hour or so perusing messages, memories and tributes from many who did know, love and will deeply miss him, I recognize that perhaps my life is the poorer, for not having engaged with him more fully when I had the opportunity.  Reflecting on the words of Brad Johnson, from Lincoln, Nebraska, my heart and sympathy go out to all of his friends, and his family at this time, as they adjust their lives to the reality of life without Thor.  But because Michael is the only one I know from this great collection of people whose lives Thor touched, my deepest sympathies, at this moment, go to him.  Often, since that visit to Glasgow more than a couple of decades ago, Thor has had a presence on the thread of our communications.  I may not have known Thor, but I did know he held a special place in Mike's heart and life.  So when an email arrived recently from Mike, with no message, just an attachment from an Atlanta newspaper, I understood that the shock, loss, pain and sorrow he was feeling made words impossible for him at that time.  I wish all of you who have lost such a special person in your lives, the love and spirit to see you through this sad and shocking time.

02-02-2008 12:58 PM -- By: Megan Middleton,  From: Atlanta, GA  

I met Thor in 1996 when he came in for the last month of the Save Our Everglades campaign in Florida.  After speaking to him for a couple of weeks over the phone, I met the infamous Thor right around election day - and yes, he was Thor - God of Thunder.  We had a brief disagreement over paychecks for the homeless people I had employed, at his suggestion, to work the polls on election day.  After a few tense moments, with police envolvement, all workers were paid.  Thought I was going to have to take on the God of Thunder. 

Thor was one of the first people I called when I moved to Atlanta, and lucky for me, he was actually in town.  He introduced me to just about everyone who was at Manuel's that night.  He was a positive force, always working to make things better.  As we all know, he was larger than life and will be greatly missed. 

02-01-2008 12:34 PM -- By: Kenn Young,  From: Atlanta  

Thor’s legend grows and lives on…Wow, I also remember Thor from Briarcliff high school.  Unfortunately we were not close but my aim is to share a remembrance to substantiate Thor’s happy personality.  Thor, if you need an extra ducat for the ferryman, here is one contribution.

Thor was one of those guys you couldn’t help but notice, even if you ran in different circles or tended to be self-absorbed.  One day I observed him in action during a somewhat heated discussion in the school cafeteria.  After a disheartening loss to a rival school in a soccer game, a group of us bemoaned this misfortune aloud. Thor sat back perched on a heater unit near the windows, seemingly reposed and unaffected.  

A slew of hate-filled polemics then proceeds to flow from haters of all things Viking, which happened to be the mascot name of Briarcliff’s arch-enemy, Lakeside High, those ignominious winners of the aforementioned soccer contest.  The vitriol spirals into a big-man contest of choice filth words.  And yet sitting there taking it all in was a veritable Viking himself, a thunder God of Valhalla, one Thor Hesla.  How could this have gone unnoticed? I can only imagine now Thor stewing at the meaningless and unintended affront to his Norseman heritage.  

Suddenly and to the amazement of a few of us ignoramuses, Thor leaps up and resonates the mad fury of a homicidal Viking, complete with wild, contorted face and gesture.  The only problem is a few of us were way too convinced.  The intended small target seemed to spread to an audience of an entire study hall.  Luckily to the worrisome, Thor’s spiel quickly morphed into a hilarious rendition of the ‘Swedish Chef’ of Jim Henson “Muppets.”  Okay, so…I was a rather numbskull teenage mongrel then,  did not know the first damned thing about the art of drama, and thought him completely mad for a second there until everyone broke down in laughter.  Sheer artistry.

I laughed so incredibly hard that day, one of the few moments in those awkward years that it all seemed to make sense.  Thor’s gift for turning a flailing moment around through skillful use of humor must have served him well later in life.  What a personality, what a hoot he must have been to close friends!

It does not surprise that, years later, I learn that this jovial and animated classmate had become an influential and notable person, an apparent leader willing to stand in the gap for others.  His life may have been snuffed out, but I am proud to say I knew him, even if only a little, and only a long, long time ago.

Hey, Thor…check it out...Borg! Borg! Borg! (www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY_Yf4zz-yo)

And please ask the man upstairs for a free pass for me.

01-30-2008 9:31 PM -- By: Lane Epstein,  From: Chicago, IL  

Thor and I were high school classmates. I'm amazed, but somehow not shocked, by the outpouring of grief and sympathy from people all over the world. I remember Thor's intelligence and creativity, his wordcraft, his sharp sense of humor. Most of all I recall his proud sense that he wasn't like everyone else, which is unusual for a teenager. I'm not surprised that he became a man who touched so many people in so many positive ways. He lived up to and exceeded the enthusiasm and promise of his youth, despite losing his life tragically early. Reading about how Thor lived his life, it makes me wish we had kept in touch over the years. It seems that a distinct spirit has been lost and the world is a poorer place. My condolences and best wishes to Maren, the rest of the family and all those who are now mourning Thor, yet celebrating having known him.

01-30-2008 8:29 PM -- By: Jo Kozak,  From: Orwell, OH  

I spent less than a week with Thor, Maren, her family and Allison and Howard at their ski cabin in Truckee. What a funny, gentle, exuberant and brilliant, brilliant man I found him to be. But what I will most remember about him was his relationship with his niece and nephew. He gave wholeheartedly and enthusiastically of himself with respect for them as children and himself as bachelor uncle. It reminded me so much of a storybook about the adventures of a bachelor uncle and his niece and two nephews ( a girl and two boys - very British) which I had as a child. I read that book over and over because it gave me such a warm feeling . I felt that same warmth watching Thor with Olivia and David. My heart goes out to Thor’s family, especially to the children who have lost so much.

01-30-2008 8:22 PM -- By: Ron Mancini,  From: Washington, DC  

This is to confirm the story posted by John Lawler (1/29/08) about Thor chomping on chicken bones in 1992. Actually, around 1987-1988(?) in another incident, Thor came into Jaeger's Pub in Atlanta with this massive scarring on his head. He had fallen while rock climbing and said that he had almost died. That was shocking enough, but then Thor sat down and began to eat the discarded chicken bones that the rest of us had chewed the meat off of. Definitely grossed out, I asked him what he was doing. (I thought that the head injury had damaged his brain !) He said he was eating the marrow out of the bones. True to being Thor, he said that the marrow was the best part !!!

01-30-2008 2:11 PM -- By: Mary Hesla Huntley,  From: Mankato, MN  

I am so sorry to hear of the untimely and tragic death of Thor. I did not know him until now through this web site. A friend in Alexandria, VA led me to this place for which I am very grateful. My father's family came from Gol, Norway. My understanding is that the Heslas are connected. I look forward to this opportunity to connect with Thor David's Family. My brother, Albert lives in Jax, FL. In friendship and with sincere regard for family, Mary Hesla Huntley

01-29-2008 8:24 PM -- By: Grant Schott,  From: Oregon  

I never actually met Thor, but worked for EMILYS List/ Margaret Workman for COngress in WV in '02. I worked for a friend of Thor's who chuckled when he told us that he had encoutered Thor in D.C. and discovered that he was working opposite us for Jim Humphreys. I just knew by the name "Thor" that we were up against quite a character. I regret that I never had the chance to meet him

01-29-2008 4:04 PM -- By: Anne Garrett Addison,  From: Seattle, WA  

I just heard the news from Pam Hansen O'Hara. Thor and I met our freshman year at St. Olaf and he was one of the few people to call me by my childhood nickname "Anner" and in fact would boom ANNER across the airport, or the phone whenever we met these past twenty plus years.

When he wasn't wearing his bathrobe, he was channeling John Belushi (circa the Blues Brothers) My roommate Beth and I played along with our black suits, white shirts, fedoras and skinny black ties. Never mind that we were blond Lutheran girls...

We've stayed in close touch over the years. In September, when I got my new job, he was one of the first people I called. "Oh my god, Thor, what am I going to do? How am I going to pull this off?" We are starting a foundation of Microsoft Alumni and I was asking everyone if you could do one thing to better the world what would you do?

Thor thought about it a long and said, "well, honestly, you're screwed"...we both know how tough it is to actually do something good and pulling together wealthy brilliant people is even tougher... I asked him to come work for me and he said he thought he had this gig in Kabul but that he's visit when he got back. Then he said, "well, if I had a lot of money to give away--I would focus it on the poorest of the poor--I would educate Dalit (untouchable) women in India". His quote (credited) made it into my PowerPoint for the board.

The last time I heard from him was a December 14th email. He wrote back in response to our first piece of collateral that I planned to mass mail donors. It was my "spiel" on what we were doing and how cool that was. Thor was the litmus test before it went out...

"Good for you. Let me know if you guys have an interest in Afghanistan. I'd love to help."

On a more personal note--several years ago--between my divorce and remarriage I met up with Thor in DC while there on business and had drink (several) at Jury's. He was between girlfriends and I was single as well...After imbibing far too much, like a gentleman, he walked me to my room. When we got there--out of no where--he kissed me. A man I'd known and loved since I was 18 but had never thought of that way. Then I kissed him back. "You're drunk," he said, trying to let me off the hook. I kissed him again.

"Your definitely drunk," he said. I reminded him of our mutual friends Pam and Doug who had been good friends for years before it clicked and have been happily married for years.

"You're REALLY drunk," he said.

I'd never been more sober.

We left it at that but I loved Thor--he was one of my dearest friends and someone I always called for advice, with big news, or to just catch up.

This past summer I remarried and Thor called to congratulate me. "He's like you," I told him, "I've found my own Thor". My new husband is not terribly tall, a little round about the middle, glasses and lost his hair sometime, somewhere in college.

I am comforted in knowing that Thor realized upon learning that news that I really had meant that kiss.

I'll miss you Thor. All my love to Maren and family and friends. What an incredible light we've lost.

01-29-2008 9:41 AM -- By: Tatiana Letzky,  From: Reston, VA, USA  

I shared life in Kabul together with Thor. We worked in the same building, shared the same house, breakfasts and dinners. He was my gym buddy and I was next door in the women's locker room when he was shot. I was the last to see him alive. Fearing for my own life and waiting to be rescued, my first impulse was to call and make sure he was ok but I knew that would not be wise so I waited. As night progressed, coming out of the hiding place, I kept asking the men, who escaped the locker room ordeal, to tell me if Thor was ok, but no one wanted to tell me the truth. The truth was too horrible, I found out later. I went to the gym with Thor and went home without him.

01-29-2008 1:02 AM -- By: John Lawler,  From: Salt Lake City  

Got the news while I was in China. A call from my wife, passing the news on, and then a call from Glenn confirming that the bad thing had happened. Damn and damn. It still feels like a kick in the gut to know that Thor is gone, and in such a horrible way. But it is somewhat ameliorated by knowing that he was doing what he wanted to do, applying his knowledge and talent in a place where he could make a difference in the world.

I think I actually heard of Thor before I even met him, in 1992, during the DNC in NY. Naill V. was telling a story about a friend of his and Michael’s who had been seated at a dinner next to a dignitary or Democratic Party honcho. Apparently unphased by the esteemed company, Thor had finished up his chicken and had started to enjoy chewing (or was it “crunching”?) the ends of the bones, to the horror of his friends... Was the story embellished? Maybe, a bit. True? No doubt. After meeting Thor and getting to know him, the story made perfect sense

From then on, any time spent with Thor was a joy. His enthusiasm, smarts, and genuine sense of fun always made even his most outrageous antics forgivable. After many missed connections in various cities over the years, I am very, very glad that I was able to hang out with him on a visit to Vancouver in March ’07.

My heartfelt thoughts and sympathies go out to Thor’s family, who will miss him most deeply. And my thoughts are also with his extended families of overseas co-workers, event junkies, political workers, and the rest who knew and loved Thor. Pax, all.

01-28-2008 6:08 PM -- By: Steve Bell,  From: Austin, Texas (& St. Olaf)  

Dear Maren and other Hezla family,

I am saddened by Thor's death, yet am inspired by and rejoice in his passion for life, his devotion to and love for family, and his dedication to service in pursuit of righteousness and justice.

Regrettably, I did not know Thor but, like him, attended St. Olaf College (Class of 1986). I learned of his death from my closest Ole friend, Vijay Mehrotra, who called to say "we've lost an Ole brother we never knew, but one I sure wish I had. And I'm sure you'll feel the same way once you meet him". Vijay could not have been more correct.

Thor -- Um Yah Yah! and God Speed.

Steve Bell

01-28-2008 4:36 PM -- By: Stefan Tigges,  From: Atlanta  

One of my two best and oldest friends was murdered by a Taliban terrorist in the gymnasium of the Serena Hotel in Kabul Afghanistan on Monday 14 January 2008. I have known Thor since 1969, but our friendship flowered in High School when we discovered common interests ranging from the nerdy (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), to girls (all talk and absolutely no action unless one counts onanism) but most of all politics. Thor and I were the two lefties in our circle of friends, arguing passionately for gun control, energy conservation and the legitimacy of state intervention when markets fail to address critical human needs. Two favorite topics of discussion were American history and the proper role of America on the world stage. My first memory of Thor dates from the second grade. We were studying the eyeball and the optic nerve. My parents were neuroscientists and I mentioned seeing an intact monkey brain with attached eyeball and optic nerve preserved in alcohol in my father's lab. All the little boys in the class encouraged me to bring that bad boy to class the next day. After our teacher got over the initial shock of seeing the brain/optic nerve/eyeball, she told me to take it out of the jar and show everyone. I was almost finished when I heard a commotion at the back of the classroom: Thor was throwing up! Cool! That episode set the tone for my relationship with Thor. There were numerous other incidents involving alcohol and vomit. I think the emotional scar from seeing that brain/optic nerve/eyeball made a career in biology or the health sciences unlikely.

01-27-2008 5:34 PM -- By: howard yellen,  From: Buenos Aires for now  

In response to Tom D.'s note a few below this, let me just say - I knew Thor Hesla. Thor Hesla was a friend of mine. And let me tell you, Thor Hesla was no bridge player.

01-27-2008 5:31 PM -- By: Ann Marlowe,  From: New york  

I met Thor at the Gandamack in Kabul on November 29 and was immediately struck by his quick intelligence, great sense of humor and warmth. He was one of those people who create an impression. I'd hoped to see him again on my next visit, but this was not to be. How sad for his family and friends.

01-27-2008 3:30 PM -- By: Tom Dworschak,  From: Atlanta  

Back in the ‘80s Thor was a regular participant in our Thursday night bridge matches. Now Thor didn’t play bridge, Thor waged bridge. In true Norwegian Viking fashion, Thor fired out his cards with reckless abandon, determined to crush the other players at the table, including his partner, without mercy in pursuit of victory and glory.

Unless the TV was on. Or there was guacamole dip on the table. Then Thor’s interest in bridge waned to the point where niceties such as bidding in sequence or following suit were cast aside as he tried to see exactly how many guac-laden chips he could fit into his mouth at once. And you’d better be outside his spitting range by 10 PM, because when the opening titles of Hill Street Blues started to roll, it was a fight to the death to see who could scream out the names first:

Bruce Weitz! Betty Thomas! Michael Warren! Taurean Blacque! Kiel Martin! Charles Haid! Veronica Hamel! (Thor, unable to speak, just usually sighed when she appeared) James B. Sikking! Joe Spano! René Enríquez! Barbara Bosson! Daniel J. Travanti!

I’ll always miss you Thor, but I’ll always save a chair at the table for you.

01-27-2008 9:44 AM -- By: Chris Rolleston,  From:  

While I did not know Thor myself, my friend Laurel Ryan easily conveyed what an exciting and important life he had. Please accept my condolences.

01-26-2008 10:48 AM -- By: Julia Rush,  From: Hickory, NC  

Thor looks just like he did 30 years ago when I last saw him...just a litle less hair and a few more pounds!!! He still has that beautiful blonde hair, the Scandanavian complexion, his fantatic energy and his huge, wonderful smile. It's been so many years since I have seen him,his sister and his fabulous father, David, but I will never forget this wonderful family. Mary, Thor's mother died while I was her very good friend; and going through a second loss must be devastating to David and his daughter. My love and prayers to all of them. Julia Rush

01-26-2008 4:57 AM -- By: Setara Delawari,  From: California/Afghanistan  

I had the pleasure of working with Thor during his 3 month stay in Kabul. We sat next to each other and Thor had an amazing wit and anytime I asked about any subject, he 'wiki'd" and gave the information. I will dearly miss him. I used to say "Thor, I'm here to help this country, but I'm not giving my life for it" and he replied "Neither am I, I'm not dying in Afghanistan". Coincidentally, he was in the Serena with a group of Norwegians and the journalist was also killed. I believe a man is not measured by how he dies; but how he lives.... Thor was a highly intelligent man with a wit to match and a kindness towards everyone - he was especially kind to the afghan workers and the cleaning people and the man who made tea for him. These men personally told me how deeply they grieve for their friend, Thor. Please pass this on to his family. He did not die in vain. He made a difference.

01-26-2008 12:41 AM -- By: Gerard and Rodney McHugh,  From: Atlanta, GA  

Rodney and I share lots of memories of Thor’s gregarious wit. Theatre Emory crowd at Indigo Girls gigs at The Dugout. Seeing him after Girls show in D.C. and catching a contact buzz from how at home he was in that town. Thor had peculiar way of pushing the envelope until everyone around him felt pretty good. He and Rodney started shooting bottle rockets off on Haynes Brooks rooftop apartment in Virginia Highlands on New Years Eve, driving everybody else jumping back down the trapdoor and back inside(with frowning faces) while Thor and Rodney were possessed with maniacal New Year spirit.

"The soul of sweet delight never passes away" -William Blake

01-26-2008 12:35 AM -- By: veena nagpal,  From: India  

All I know of Thor is from Sherwin's tribute. Any man who could evoke such feelings in a friend must be one in a million. Wish I had known you Thor!

01-25-2008 7:14 PM -- By: Paddy Kaine,  From: Minnesota  

Dear David, You have my deepest sympathy. I cannot imagine anything worse than loosing one of our children. I haven't seen you since you were stationed at Camp Pendalton in California. You were able to get together with Jim and me and drive around the countryside in a non- airconditioned car. This was either 1952 or 53. I've read many of the guest book entries and he was certainly a son for you to be very proud of. Sincerely, Paddy Kaine

01-25-2008 5:47 PM -- By: George Landers,  From:  

My condolences to Thor's family and friends

01-25-2008 4:39 PM -- By: Barbara Rush,  From: Atlanta, GA/Hickory, NC  

Dear Hesla Family,

Dad (Floyd) sent me Thor's obituary. We have been in Hickory, NC since moving from Atlanta in 1978, and it's been a long time since I was a 10-year old kid hanging out at St. Bart's. I took a trip down memory lane to Thor's website, and when I saw the curly blond hair and the crazy robe, it came to me immediately. After reading about Thor, I only wish I had known him as an adult, but I have fond memories of Thor, Marla and the rest of the family. What an amazing man.

01-25-2008 3:41 PM -- By: Eric Schoenfield,  From: Alexandria, Virginia  

My condolences to all of his family and friends.

01-25-2008 10:45 AM -- By: Steven Titlebaum,  From: Washington, DC  

I was very shocked to learn the news about Thor.

I first met Thor when I moved to Washington, DC, about 12 years ago. As many have written, Thor had an amazing connection with people everywhere, and he was willing to use it to help anyone. He introduced me so many people, I cant keep count.

He was a character and always had a way to make people to smile and laugh.

I am sorry that as the years have passed that our paths did not cross as much. I feel truly blessed that they did cross as much as they did and I can call him a friend.

Simply put, he was a good guy with a heart of gold.

My condolences to all of his family and friends.

Though it has been several years since we have gotten together, reading everyone's comments has brought a smile to my face. I think I last ran in to Thor about 3 years ago, though it seems like it was just a few months. Thor had an uncanny ability to just pick up a relationship as if he had just seen you yesterday.

01-25-2008 9:24 AM -- By: W. F. Casey III,  From: Johns Creek, Ga.  

Now, here's a guy I wish I had had the honor to know persoanally. Only by reputation. WFC

01-24-2008 11:59 PM -- By: john m. oliver,  From: Raleigh, nc  

Man, how many times are you going to make me laugh/cry simultaniously. I had not seen the Atlants vidio before my last entry. I only met your sister a few times, but her eulogy summed it up perfectly. I hope everyone takes from you life, and this tagedy, some soul searching, as I have. Reflect. Consider. Try to understand. You have touched us all. Miss you more. JMO.

01-24-2008 10:10 PM -- By: Roger Schneider,  From: Alabama  

Worked with Thor at the '88 Convention and saw him a lot in '92-'93. And bumped into him a few times since then typically at DC Nat'l airport... Thor was one of those guys that simply seeing him coming brought back immediate and powerful memories of old adventures and good times... He will be sorely missed. My condolences to Maren and rest of the family and friends.


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