Dr. Mark Finney
The Paw Print
My heart is broken today as I write about the life and death of our friend and colleague Stu Hilwig. Stu died in a head-on collision on U.S. Highway, 285 in New Mexico. His children Jack and Charlotte, who were also in the car, are recovering from serious injuries at the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque.
For those of us who knew Stu well, this is a day that we’ve anticipated. Since birth, Stu had been plagued with heart trouble and we all knew that someday he would leave us before we were ready to let him go. It seems that day was October 28th, 2012. And although I knew this day would come, that expectation has not helped me feel this loss any less.
You see, Stu was one of my first friends in Alamosa. One of my earliest memories here was riding to Stu’s place with David MacWilliams to drink wine and try to speak Italian for a few hours. Stu spoke Italian really well and for several years, he, David MacWilliams, Joe Kolupke, I and some others have been getting together every once in a while for Italian-style appetizers, wine and Italiano. Stu knew I didn’t understand it all. He repeated himself in English for my benefit when he could see he hadn’t gotten through.
Stu was also one of my best friends. When I first moved to Alamosa to work at Adams State, I was not sure that it would be a long-term job. But a year later, my wife Erin moved down and 6 years later, here we are. Let me tell you, it is not because of the weather that we stayed – it’s because of the community. And Stu was right at the center of that community. On Thursdays we played poker, on Fridays we had happy hour, and on any other day you’d be as likely to find a group of us together doing something. Stu, it seems, was almost always there with us. And when he wasn’t, we stood around wondering where he was. To write that Stu always had something nice to say is an understatement. Stu always had something personal to say – some way of connecting with you personally – by remembering something you mentioned to him a year ago or telling a story that he thought you’d enjoy. He was the easiest guy to talk to, and he loved to talk. About everything.
In all the chaos and heartbreak of the last 24 hours, our community has shown itself to be strong and loving. Constant calls and texts have reminded me just what a wonderful community we are and, if you didn’t know already Stu, would let you know just how important you are to us.
Stu – I love you and we will miss you. We will help take care of Stephanie, Jack, Charlie and Xandra because we know that as much as your life has affected your friends,’ your family was most important to you, and will feel this loss the most.