Celebrating life stories...



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

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01-17-2008 11:04 PM -- By: Howard Handler,  From: Chicago  

I am so sorry for the Hesla family's tremendous loss. I worked with Thor on Lauren Beth Gash's congressional campaign (IL-10) in 2000.

I was fresh out of college, so it was an amazing opportunity to work with and learn from someone with Thor's rare skills and abilities -- I will always remember him as affable, smart, funny and a valuable mentor.

01-17-2008 10:44 PM -- By: Judy Paul ,  From: Atlanta, GA  

I am Stephanie Paul-Doscher's Aunt Judy. And I have heard about Thor for many years. I have always delighted in hearing about the fun times that Stephanie and Thor had together, about their fabulous trips, and about this bigger-than-life special person.

I have read pages and pages of testimonial to Thor at this memorial website over the last 2 days. I have laughed and I have cried. I have gotten to know so much more about Thor than I ever knew before. And I have read Thor's "Big Letters" and I have smiled all over. I laughed out loud at his "dwarf story" and literally guffawed at his letter to Ann Coulter! And I now totally understand how Thor's sense of humor, wit, smarts and savvy were such a good match for Stephanie's.

I am so sad. I am so sad for Stephanie's loss. And my heart breaks for Thor's family. And I am saddened for each of you who knew him so well. And I am sad for me, too. Sad because I never had the treat of meeting this giant-of-a-man face-to-face, and I am sad because now I never will.

It is so obvious that Thor is someone whose spirit will never die. Each of you who has opened your heart in these pages knows that Thor will forever live in you. I know that each of you will continue to celebrate Thor's life each time you think of him and smile. His is a life worth celebrating. And I celebrate it with you all.

01-17-2008 10:27 PM -- By: Brad Johnson,  From: Lincoln, NE  

I hope the following will shed a little more light on the size of Thor's heart:

About twenty years ago a close friend of mine died. Although Thor only knew me as the younger brother of one of his best college friends, he took the time to write a four-page, profoundly-moving letter of comfort. Here is a small, but relevant and significant, part of it:

"The pain of death is like a little speck of sand, ever present, and I venture to guess that for the rest of your life a day will not go by in which you don't think of your friend . . . . Take the sand, the pain, the guilt, and use it. Turn it into something rich and strange, and dedicate it to the loving memories of all the laughter and arguments and the beer and the stories you ever shared with your friend. For you are now blessed with the knowledge that the clock is running, running, and that there is no time to be too rude, no time to be too cold, no time to be too busy. . . .

Dare to be kind. They can only reciprocate.

Dare to be silly. They can only laugh.

Dare to cry often and loudly. They can only respect honest sorrow.

Above all, dare to be loving and brave; they can only love you bravely in return."

Thor went on to quote this poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay:

"My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night, but Ah, my friends! and Oh, my foes, it casts a lovely light."

01-17-2008 10:04 PM -- By: Joel Sabel,  From:  

Even though behind me a few years in high school and my brother's friend, he was always the nice guy that you knew was going not only do well, but do good. He did.

01-17-2008 9:54 PM -- By: Charlie Bitzis,  From: Thor's High School  

My condolences to Thor's family and to his friends. I went to high school with Thor and truly enjoyed having him as a friend. I told someone earlier today that what I remember most about Thor was that just by entering a room, he could lighten the mood and make people smile. It was extremely difficult to be unhappy in his presences. I'm glad to see he went on to share that gift with the rest of the world.

01-17-2008 9:20 PM -- By: Nick Bitzis,  From: Thor's High School  

I too went to school with Thor at Briarcliff High School in Atlanta. Thor was well respected and I am deeply saddened by the news of his death. Please accept my deepest and most sincere condolences to all his friends and family. He will be missed, but let's make sure he is not forgotten.

01-17-2008 8:38 PM -- By: Clark Rodgers,  From: Atlanta, GA  

I went to school with Thor at Briarcliff High School in Atlanta. Thor was a good friend and I was greatly saddened by the news of his death. My deepest condolences to his surviving family.

01-17-2008 7:49 PM -- By: Richard Mendes,  From: Atlanta, GA  

So sorry to hear of the horrible news. My condolences to Thor’s family.

01-17-2008 7:46 PM -- By: Curt Tucker,  From: Atlanta  

Even for those of us who had not seen or spoken with him in decades, it always felt as if Thor were nearby, hiding in a shadow, or even squatting in a corner of our own minds, ready to pop out at an inappropriate time, annoyed at not being center stage, and wondering where the beer was.

I remember the man who pulled me and others to the roof of whatever house the party was in that weekend. I remember learning that there are people in the world who don’t think it’s odd to sit on the roof of someone you don’t really know, look up at the stars, discuss western philosophers, then at the mere whiff of a conversational lull, leap off the roof, run across the street and climb the outside of a dormitory.

I think he fell off the dorm, but it doesn’t really matter. He bounced back, grinning, ruddy-faced and exuberant, as always. And he always will.

01-17-2008 7:44 PM -- By: Amy Simon,  From: San Francisco  

So sorry to lose Thor. He was so full of life and joy and committed to helping others. Too tragic.

01-17-2008 7:17 PM -- By: Holly Aguirre,  From: Los Angeles, CA  

Despite his intimidating superhero name and his bulldog-like presence, Thor Helsa is one of the kindest and gentlest souls I have ever had the privilege to know. His persistence, loyalty and tenacity will forever be remembered and admired.

While working on a campaign in Athens, GA., Thor came to see me every day where I worked at Cookies & Co. He always had a kind word, a pleasant thought and a huge smile on his face – so rare. It is so sad to know that such a bright light has been extinguished at the hands of hate. It is my hope that I can honor his memory by striving to be more Thor-like. My heart goes out to his family.

01-17-2008 7:10 PM -- By: Philip Eschweiler,  From: Minnesota  

I never knew my first cousin once removed Thor, or rather I never met him in person. My father, Charles Eschweiler, would regale us with the stories he had heard from and of cousin Thor while we sat around the dinner table. I wish that I had been able to meet him before his passing.

01-17-2008 6:19 PM -- By: Rachel Darnell-Heath,  From: Sant Fe  

Thor and I graduated from Emory in 1984. We didn't actually become friends until our 10 year reunion. We would have drinks at a pub and play Team Trivial pursuit. He was just getting into his campaigning career. I moved to Santa Fe and we kept in touch. He came through several years ago on a cross country travel trip. He had driven his small sports car behind a caravan of dilapidated mobile homes that kept breaking down. He had the most hilarious story of the trip. We coresponded lately because my bother is in Afghanistan. I'll always remember him with warmth and sadness.

01-17-2008 6:17 PM -- By: Jennifer Aronson Ford,  From: Minnesota  

St. Olaf '84 classmate and friend. Deepest condolences to all touched by this passionate soul. You'll be missed Thor!

01-17-2008 6:08 PM -- By: Sarah Marie Eschweiler,  From: Minneapolis, MN  

"O coz,coz,coz, my pretty little coz..." So Thor would greet me when we had our precious times together...my amazing, vibrant, brilliant, inspiring, adventurous cousin...so fun, witty, insightful, fully committed to living and loving life with passionate zest.

I am stunned by his passing, and very, very sad.

Thank you, Thor, for being a magical and glowing strand in the tapestry of my life...you have been a true gift to the planet. I will miss you--your loving great-heartedness, your bold, generous spirit, your deft humor, and your delightful, life-long love affair with language, ideas, and ideals. Thor, wherever you are now in Spirit, I send you heartfelt love and gratitude and blessings. O coz, coz, coz, my dear cherished coz...peace to you.

Thank you so much to those who created this site...it is a great comfort to catch a glimpse of the thousands of lives Thor touched, and to share memories of him. Peace to all of us.

01-17-2008 5:56 PM -- By: Michael & Elisabeth,  From:  

Thor. We still can't believe you're gone. Its just all wrong. We're very sad. We cherish very happy memories of you: Ultimate, Bella vista conversations, skiing in Brez and Bansko, trips to Greece, waffle mornings, fabulous parties in Pristina etc etc. Your big personality was warm and generous. You enthusiastically brought us together - the THORGANISER!! You made us laugh hard and created a positive and happy energy in our lives. We thank you and remember for that and more. Love always Michael & Elisabeth (EB) & Fintan (Lordy)!!

01-17-2008 5:28 PM -- By: Barbara Lipscomb,  From: Austin, Texas  

I am heartbroken to hear of this. I met Thor in the early 90's when my friend Lulu Flores was running for office. Since I wasn't working, I spent alot of time with Thor and Lulu on the campaign - what fun we had! Thor is one of the brightest people I ever met, very funny, and also very wise in his serious moments

I remember one sparkling Sunday afternoon in February, after the campaign but before Thor had to leave Austin. We all drove to the country to drink beer and eat barbeque, tell stories. Over lunch, Thor spun this elaborate fantasy (Star-Wars style), casting himself as the valiant and loyal Thorbot, defending the Princess from the forces of darkness.... We all had parts in the story. That was one of my favorite afternoons ever.

I remember Thor with love and respect. Maren, I am especially thinking of you and your family today.

01-17-2008 5:21 PM -- By: Alix Litwack,  From:  

There's no way I could be a friend of Maren's without being a friend of Thor's. You were such an exuberant person and all of us will miss you and your larger than life spirit. Whenever the Buswomen rendezvous we will celebrate the many good things you did for so many. Peace.

01-17-2008 4:59 PM -- By: Kymie Spring,  From: Grand Rapids, MI  

I am floored by all these tributes to and remembrances of Thor. I'm just crippled by sadness. Hopefully this website will stay up for a while -- please Howard! BIG thanks to all the people that rallied to makes the, "I've got really bad news" phone calls, collect so much beautiful sentiment, help make arrangements, and put a stop to the "and one American" media coverage. That was so upsetting. KUDOs

01-17-2008 4:57 PM -- By: XR,  From: London  

Goodbye Thor. I asked you, when I first met you, whether you were the ultimate guy. And, yes, you were.

01-17-2008 4:36 PM -- By: Jeanne Sutter,  From:  

A great loss. Thor seemed to live with no regrets, a lesson for us all. My deepest condolences from a Bradley alum.

01-17-2008 4:24 PM -- By: Kris Schultz,  From: Manchester, NH (Louisville, KY native)  

I am so said to learn of Thor's passing, and my prayers are with all who knew and loved him.

I knew Thor as a fellow campaign nomad, and would run into him in the strangest of places. I first met him in Iowa when I was working for Gore and he for Bradley. He'd find our hang-outs - usually the Alpine Club - and at first try to razz us a bit... but he's so good-natured that his razzing would usually turn into a nice round of his repeatedly asking me about this person or that person on the campaign - "oh, so-and-so works with you? I love that guy!"

The last time I saw him was right before I moved back to New Hampshire - March '07 - at a Teresa Vilmain rollodex roundup party in DC. I think I spent most of that event talking to Thor... back in September, we'd connected again through facebook, and what a darn nice guy... I will miss him and his always sunny disposition.

01-17-2008 3:19 PM -- By: Marsha Horton,  From: Magnolia, DE  

I was so sorry to hear of Thor's death. I'm an old family friend of the Craidheads and just wanted to express my sympathy. My prayers are with you.

Marsha'(Taylor) Horton formerly of Richmond, VA.

01-17-2008 3:19 PM -- By: Krista Bray,  From: San Francisco  

I am grateful to have known Thor Hesla.

He was so much larger than life that's it's surprising to realize four years have passed since we actually shared a beer, a laugh, and a fantastical story in person. Thor and I would try to one up each other with our stories. He always won. We were in touch last week...and this still feel surreal.

I first met him while working on the NATO Summit in DC and have lived vicariously through his adventures since those days.

He had a big heart, a sharp wit, and he touched so many lives. I miss him.

My heart goes out to Thor's family and countless friends.

01-17-2008 2:03 PM -- By: Brian Sabel,  From: Littleton, CO  

What a terrible loss for everyone! Sincere condolences to the Hesla family and to Thor's many friends.

Brian - BHS '80

01-17-2008 1:53 PM -- By: Steve Weill,  From: Los Angeles, CA  

Reading these many posts, I see my affinity for Thor was not at all unique. Although we did not spend a great deal of time together at Emory, whenever our paths crossed over the years, I felt sincere friendship for Thor. He was a wonderful mix of qualities - intelligent, fun, funny and dear. We swapped email addresses a couple of years back and I was honored when I was included to receive the most recent Big Letter. In it he mentioned having written a screenplay. This set off a series of correspondences over the course of the last month concerning his new life in Kabul (“There’s nothing to do but work and write here. It's very similar to being in a nice jail”) We also discussed my recent move to LA to work in film and television and my interest in seeing his screenplay.

Perhaps I can offer yet another side of Thor by sharing some of his writing. Here’s how he described his screenplay, “Phat City”:

“It's a caper movie: two down-on-their luck political hacks inherit a bar, lose money on it, and convert it into a strip club. Lobbyists bring in a Senator, who is smothered to death in the breasts of a Russian stripper. Hilarity and Hi-jinks ensue!”

Writing a screenplay is a great accomplishment. Thor mentioned he wrote two screenplays, one novel, and several treatments including “Abu Ghraib - The Musical" (For President Bush, he suggested casting a boy – “like Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone.”

Thor’s mind obviously kept working after heading home from work or entertaining us in a local pub. As expected, his writing was smart, truly funny and consistent with his political philosophies. As I navigate my way through the industry out here, I will keep his work in my mind and heart and continue to try to find a way to make his dreams a reality. As he ended his last email to me: “I'm ready !!! Let's take Tinseltown by storm !!!”

Steve Weill LA, CA

01-17-2008 1:47 PM -- By: Faith Brown Kerr,  From:  

I'll remember Thor as a bigger-than-life personality, amusing and self-amused, ready for an adventure. Sounds like he was doing work he loved. I hope so.

01-17-2008 1:41 PM -- By: Tim Bennett,  From: WDC  

I have had the pleasure of knowing Thor for the last 8 years. His unique abilities of storytelling and writing have doubled me over in laughter many times.

Miss you buddy. be well.

01-17-2008 1:40 PM -- By: Rodd Campbell,  From: DC.  

I Will miss my friend the times when the fellas would get togather and riff on each other about life, no subject was sacred.The Thor witt would get loose and we would laugh until we could not breath oh yea we would have a drink or 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0000000 I will truly miss you my friend.....prayers to your family and the pitts nation....

01-17-2008 1:33 PM -- By: John Johnson,  From: New York City  

Thor and I worked together in Kosovo for four years. What great memories -- from the battles with "Fucci" to Thor's "watch the UN cars being torched" party during civil disturbances in 2004. From reading the Guest Book entries, I know that Thor was so lucky in his short life to have so many wonderful, loving friends. You will be missed!


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