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Remembering AJ                    

A.J. Dyk ‘was very caring’
Young man who died touched hearts everywhere 12/11/01


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 been wonderful.”

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 life.

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 snowmobile riders.

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.