Departure

.: Thirty years ago I was in the midst of my first year of library school at the University of Alberta. I lived in residence on campus, in the Lister Hall complex, specifically Henday Hall. Among the many friends I made there was a girl named Sharon Kinakin. We remain friends to this day. After graduation, Sharon returned to Coutts AB, to work at what is know called the Canadian Border Services Agency, where she did customs and immigration work. At some point in time, Sharon met Brad Haugen, a US Immigration officer working at the Sweetgrass MT crossing office; eventually they married. I first met Brad when I visited them both at their home in Sunburst, some seven miles south of the border crossing in Montana. (I always thought it was cool that to get to work, Sharon would drive to the Canadian border crossing, clear Canadian Customs, and then park and go into the same office to work. At the end of her shift, she’d clear US Customs, and drive back to Sunburst.)

I liked Brad, he was friendly and very welcoming, a very nice guy. On a subsequent trip years later to visit them and their two children, Aaron and Jenna, I approached the US Customs crossing in my car and noticed Brad was working the window, with another US Customs officer at his side. He saw me, and asked, “How are you doing today, sir?” I replied something like, “Very well, thank you.” Brad proceeded to ask the necessary questions, such as where do you live, what is your citizenship, where were you born, etc., each of which I answered dutifully. Finally he asked, “And where is your final destination in the United States?”, to which I replied, while trying to hide a smile, “er, your house”, which resulted in a few good laughs all around.

I last saw Brad in May 2005, when I drove from Lethbridge AB to Sunburst to attend their son’s high school graduation. Brad and Sharon had divorced by that time, with Sharon moving back to Milk River AB, in Canada, and the children, Aaron and Jenna, splitting time between them, but everyone remained on good terms. There was a lot of excitment in the house in preparation for the grad ceremony, which went quite well, and afterward there was time for more food, drink, visiting and general merriment. In the post Sept 11 environment, US Customs had become part of the Department of Homeland Security. I noticed that Brad had a small, colourful DHS pin in the house. I mentioned in passing that it would be cool to have one, and he said he would look into it for me. I returned to Lethbridge later in the day, and that evening discovered the pin in one of my jacket pockets. Brad was that kind of a person.

On 31 December 2006, Brad was at Sharon’s house, where they and Aaron and Jenna celebrated New Year’s Eve as a family. On New Year’s Day, Brad suffered a massive stroke, and left this world on Saturday, 06 January 2007. He was 55 years old. It was sudden and unforseen. Sharon wrote to many of us shortly afterwards, and this line resonated in her message:

For those who knew Brad, he was a private and simple man. He was a kind, forgiving man and he loved and adored his children. He was a good son, brother, husband and father.

In a few simple, powerful words, Sharon captured the essence of her former husband and good friend. Brad’s obituary appeared in the Great Falls Tribune; it’s worth the read.

3 Responses to “Departure”

  1. cdc Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  2. Loretta (mom) Says:

    Hi Randy: How generous of you to post Brad’s obituary. It is indeed a sad day when one loses a loved one at such a young age. I will keep his family in my prayers.
    Luv u
    Mom

  3. Derryl Says:

    Randy, I remember you talking about them. Sorry for your loss, and for the loss to Sharon and her family. She’s lucky (and smart) to have stayed on good terms after the divorce. I hope she can find some peace in that fact.

    D

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