Everyone seems to have a story about Chris Hade ’09, and this weekend people will have a chance to gather and share their tales.
To honor Hade, who passed away Nov 14 after a three-year long battle with cancer, the Chaplain’s Office will hold a memorial service in Herrick Chapel at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The service will include performances of live music Hade enjoyed—notably a cappella, Broadway showtunes and big band jazz—as well as photo and media displays of his time at Grinnell.
Samantha Worzalla ’07 met Hade in the early days of his first year, on the Grinnell Outdoor Orientation Program (GOOP). They were canoeing and it was raining steadily. When they eventually found the dock, it was falling apart, and the boards were submerged and unstable. Worzalla said that Hade helped everyone else to the trail until the two of them were left with a canoe and some equipment bags. She helped him get the canoe onto his shoulders, then watched in amazement as he teetered and hopped along 100 feet of submerged boards to the trail.
“I kept asking him if he was alright and needed help,” Worzalla said. “He said, in his genuinely cheerful, positive way, ‘Don’t worry about me! I’m a ninja!’”
When Harry Krejsa ’10, who met Hade while they were both attending Indianola High School, heard Worzalla’s story, he laughed. “He did the same thing when we were backpacking in Utah,” he said. “He would make ninja noises as he kicked scorpions out of the tent. He never took himself too seriously to not act like a ninja.”
Stories like this are everywhere. Two years ago, Amanda Gotera ’09 was frustrated with the administration’s treatment of disability awareness and accessibility on campus. Hade was her SGA senator, so she sent him an e-mail to complain. Within 15 minutes, he had responded with a two-page plan to make the campus more disability accessible.
“I was sold,” she said.
Even among those who barely knew him, there seems to be a consensus that Hade brought a certain light to the Grinnell campus. His smile, his voice, the graceful way he dismounted his bike—it was all filled with an easy, genuine charm for those who knew him. As strange as it seems, his friends said that as his cancer worsened, he got better.
“His positivity was always astounding,” friend Mairead O’Grady ’10 said. “I’ll never forget when he told me, ‘Cancer is great! They give you your own room on the same floor as your girlfriend when you’re a second-year, no problem at all!’”
Hade was diagnosed with sacral chordoma, a rare and inoperable cancer, in the spring of his first year at Grinnell. Shortly after his high school graduation, Hade fell at a graduation party and injured his tailbone. When his mother noticed how much pain medication he had been taking to deal with the long healing process, she set up an appointment with a radiologist. The scans revealed the cancer that had gone undetected for nearly a year.
Hade established a treatment regimen at the MD Cancer Center in Houston, then underwent chemotherapy and radiation at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. But by his third year, the cancer had spread from Hade’s tailbone to other parts of his body. Forced to drop out of Grinnell due to his physical condition, Hade spent the last year in Indianola, Iowa, with his family and long-time girlfriend, Natti Tipayamongkol ’08.
Hade died of complications on Friday, Nov 14, on his way to the hospital. Within hours of receiving the news, the Grinnell campus was overflowing with conversations about him. In the wake of some deaths, communities are stunned into silence; after Hade’s, it seemed, Grinnell was moved to praise.
After the memorial service, a reception will be held in JRC 101.