‘was very caring’
Young man who died touched hearts everywhere
ELLENSBURG — It’s a parent’s
worst nightmare: outliving their children.
Mel and Cindy Dyk are
doing just that. Their son, A.J. Dyk, 19, was killed in an
automobile accident on state Route 240 on Nov. 6.
Though tragedy has struck
the Dyk family, they say their strong faith in God, many
supporters and fond memories of their son have sustained them
through this very difficult time.
“The community has been
great,” Cindy said. “We’ve gotten thousands of cards, calls and
food. People we didn’t even know have stopped by. Everyone has
On that day, A.J. had
traveled to Ellensburg to console a friend in need. Around 3
a.m. and on his way back to the Tri-Cities, he fell asleep at
the wheel. His vehicle crossed the center line by mere inches
and struck an oncoming semi.
A.J. had spoken with his
father, Mel, earlier in the evening to let him know what his
plans were. A.J. recently had relocated to the Tri-Cities to
attend Columbia Basin Community College to become a welder. It
was the last time the two would ever speak.
He left a note in his
truck — something he was known to do, as A.J. was notorious for
jotting everything down and leaving slips of paper behind, Cindy
said. This particular note said he was tired, probably because
of the late hour. Working a full-time job and attending school
may have attributed to his fatigue. He left phone numbers for
people to contact in the event of an emergency.
“He simply fell asleep,”
Cindy said, recalling the horrific day.
“He was so pumped about
his job,” Mel said. “He had just gotten his first full paycheck.
He had me guessing what he made and said, ‘Hey, not too bad,
working 80 hours and going to school.’ He was very excited.”
A.J. was born in the
Kittitas Valley in 1982. He attended Thorp Elementary School,
transferring into the Ellensburg school system in the fifth
grade. His family said A.J. made friends easily and had a deep,
life-long faith in God.
“From the day he went to
kindergarten, I felt like I was sending him to prison. He wanted
to be outside,” Cindy said. “The biggest smile I think I ever
saw on his face was the day he graduated from high school.”
A.J. also had a bit of a
wild streak in him — as most kids do — often leaving his parents
shaking their heads in wonder at some of his antics.
“He always documented his
mischievous deeds. Like driving in the breezeway at the high
school or parking on the ecology blocks in the parking lot, “
Mel said smiling. “He was very adventurous. And very caring.”
A.J.’s caring side was
not only demonstrated the night he died, but throughout his
He and Mel had joined
Cascade Search and Rescue after A.J. had read an article in the
Daily Record about the organization. The two were avid
outdoorsmen with plenty of back country experience and expert
Mel said he and A.J.
participated in numerous rescue missions where time and time
again A.J. demonstrated his compassion for people and his
willingness to help where he could.
“He would get ticked off
at me if one came in during the week because I wouldn’t take him
out of school,” Mel said. “He was very caring and sensitive to
the victims and their needs and the victim’s families.”
Cindy remembered meeting
a woman at her son’s memorial service. She did not know the
woman but learned of a kindness A.J. had done for her.
“Three days before the
accident he had stopped to help this woman change her tire on
the freeway — that’s what kind of person he was,” Cindy said.
“We didn’t know that. She came to his service and told us about
it. He also picked up hitchhikers until I chewed him out about
it. He’d say, ‘Mom, they needed the help.’”
Cindy said A.J. was the
type of person who could make friends with anyone from ages 6 to
60. He had quickly endeared himself to the Jim Smith family of
Smith Farms in the Tri-Cities, becoming almost like family to
them instead of hired help.
That’s just how A.J. was.
He touched many people during his short life, and left behind a
lot of friends.
So many friends in fact
that when the family couldn’t find the kind of urn they wanted
to keep A.J.’s ashes in, the Ellensburg High School shop class
built one for them. The custom-built box is made from metal,
painted orange — A.J.’s favorite color — with etched plexiglass
sides depicting snowmobiles, four-wheel vehicles, a Chevrolet
logo and his name.
Since his Blazer was his
pride and joy, some of his friends had stopped by the Dyk farm
on the Thorp Highway and wrote messages of condolence to A.J.
and his family on the hood. It was removed from the vehicle and
taken to his memorial service where others could leave their own
messages. The hood will be displayed in the family farm’s shop
after it receives a clear-coat protectant.
To further remember A.J.
and his kindness, his family is in the process of setting up a
memorial scholarship fund in his name to benefit other students
who may want to attend a trade school. Mel said that so far, the
family has collected $2,500 and placed the money into a bank
account earmarked for the fund.