An Unfinished Life is the Newspaper Story of Chad Kesler's Attention Deficit Disorder and Resulting Untimely Death

Chad Kesler: An Unfinished Life
By Kathy Heicher

Vail Daily- November 10, 2005

EAGLE - One year ago Thursday, Chad Kesler, 19, of Eagle took his life, putting an end to a swift downward spiral that had started just months earlier, when a friend introduced him to crack cocaine.

Six months previously, the freckled, handsome, reddish-haired young man with the impish grin was indistinguishable from any other happy senior at the Eagle Valley High School graduation ceremony.

His pride shines through in the photograph of him and his mother. School had often been a struggle for Chad, who had attention deficit disorder. Graduation was a huge milestone.

Mom and Chad on Graduation Day

He seemed to have reached the point where he had things figured out. Midway through his high school career, he'd been into some trouble with drinking and driving. He gave up alcohol, cold turkey, and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Chad compiled a list of life goals that was a mix of reality and dreams: go to a technical institute, become a master mechanic, get a job in a top garage where he could customize cars and motorcycles, score at least 10 hockey goals during the season, quit smoking, ask that pretty girl out on a date, win the lottery and, at some point in time, buy some property - a house in Jamaica, or a ranch in Colorado. He liked dirt-biking and loved working on any kind of engine.

Chad was a talented athlete. Soccer, hockey, and snowboarding were his best sports. His life-long friend, Tyler Berglund, recalls that Chad was fiercely competitive, and "lived on the edge" with just about every sport he played.

He had the love and support of his family. Chad's mother recently found on her computer a speech he had written, most likely for a class project.

"I would like to start by thanking my parents because they have been there for me 110 percent. From sports to school to personal things, they never doubted me and never let me down," he wrote.

He was a compassionate kid, who, as a youngster, protected his older brother, Brandon, when kids teased about Brandon's deafness. On a family vacation to Jamaica, he insisted on giving away food to beggars.

His best friends since childhood were Tyler and Travis Berglund, who shared his dream of becoming professional motocross riders. They even had a name for their future professional team: the K-B Bros.

Chad was looking forward to the future.

"I have much to do and many things to accomplish. After high school I am going to the Universal Technical Institute for customizing cars and motorcycles. I don't care how much I make while doing so, I just want to wake up and say, 'heck, yeah, I have to go to work today,'" he wrote in that speech. There was a another telling sentence in the speech Chad left on his mother's computer:

"So far the lessons life have taught me are: It is a privilege to live and just breath, so you might as well live life to the fullest because you never know when it will end."

"He was not some loser druggie," wrote Tyler Bergland in his speech for Chad's memorial services. But sometime after graduation, things changed. When Bergland returned from a two-week graduation trip, he was surprised by what was going on with his childhood friend.

"Chad wasn't Chad anymore; he wasn't the same. He had a new group of friends. It was like 16 years gone in two weeks, all because of one bad decision," Berglund said.

Five months later, Chad was dead.

What happened to this young man who came from a loving home, and who had so much promise? On the anniversary of his death, his mother, father, and friends are taking a look back at his life, seeking insights.

A dad's memory: The last elk hunt by Kathy Heicher

Dick Kesler, Chad's father, is a well-regarded local realtor who specializes in ranch properties. He has also, for several years, coordinated the Eagle County Fair, a multi-faceted task that requires initiative, stamina and persistence.

He's having a rough time this week, on the one-year anniversary of his youngest son's death.

"He was a good kid. He got involved in something he couldn't handle. It handled him," said Kesler.

The grieving father remembers that the day before Chad took his life, they had completed a successful father-son elk hunt. For the third year in a row, Chad shot a nice-sized elk, a 5 X 5 bull this time. Everything seemed to be going well, for the moment, in the sometimes troubled father-son relationship. Chad's father remembers the adventure as "magical."

Kesler recalls with pride how he and Chad worked together on the red truck that Chad loved so much the family agreed to incorporate it into his senior photographs.

"Personally, the only way I can deal with Chad's death is to look at the gift he gave me, versus the tragedy that took place," Kesler said. Looking back, Chad's father has some thoughts about how other parents can recognize if their kid is getting into trouble.

"There are so many signs that are so subtle. The biggest thing is if there is an abrupt change in peer group. Be extremely aware of that kind of behavior," he said. "That's basically what Chad's downfall was. He had some terrific friends, and abandoned those for another group ... then took his life."

The family is finding some solace in the Chad Kesler memorial fund that was set up at Wells Fargo Bank in Eagle. The money collected in that fund will be used to provide scholarships specifically to at-risk kids.

"We want to especially thank everybody that helped the family during the entire time period, and who are still providing assistance," Kesler said. "Our hearts go out to the people who have donated so generously."

Send donations to the Chad Kesler Memorial Fund in care of any Wells Fargo Bank, or mail to the Eagle Wells Fargo Bank at P.O. Box 567, Eagle, Colo.

Vail Trail
November 10, 2005

Editor's note: On Nov. 10, 2004, Chad Kesler, son of Dick Kesler and Jan Johnson, was reported missing. His body was found June 8 by a pair of hikers. His grandmother, Betty Johnson, asked that we run a poem the week of Nov. 10, 2005, the one-year anniversary of Chad's death.

The Broken Chain

We little knew that morning that God was going to call your name.

In life we loved you dearly, in death we do the same.

It broke our hearts to lose you, you did not go alone; for part of us went with you the day God called you home.

You left us peaceful memories, your love is still our guide; and though we cannot see you, you are always at our side.

Our family chain is broken; and nothing seems the same; but as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.

We sadly miss you, Chad,

Grandma and Grandpa

Doug and family

Roger and family

Betty Johnson

Little Cedar, IA

Back from Attention Deficit Disorder leads to untimely death to Chad's Story about ADD and Addiction