In his too-short life, Lee Kidd gathered enough adventure to fill a hundred years: fly-fishing in remotest Alaska, snowboarding through perfect Rocky Mountain snow, making a legion of friends who admired the intensity of his character.
From his youth in Raleigh, spent catching air on rollerblades, to his adulthood, spent knee-deep in Montana rivers, he chased after the rush of life spent outdoors.
And his family takes comfort that even on the day he died, Kidd stood at the top of a Teton mountain ridge, gazing out over snow-white peaks – a spot where he could watch the Earth put on its finest show.
“What a beautiful kid,” said his big brother Andy, eulogizing Kidd on Saturday before hundreds of mourners at Raleigh’s Greystone Baptist Church. “We all knew he was kind of a thrill seeker.”
Late in December, rescuers found Kidd, 34, at the bottom of a 500-foot cliff near Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming, where he worked as a chef. They believe he had hiked up a back country ridge, intending to snowboard down a steep bowl, then stopped to admire the view, walking out too far on a snow cornice that broke off and fell.
The week-long search required sending helicopters and dogs into an avalanche-prone area, where Kidd lay under 2 feet of snow. The family, in its obituary and during the service, sent its sincere thanks to those who risked their lives to look for him.
“A compassionate son,” said the Rev. Sean Allen, senior pastor at Greystone. “A loyal friend. A faithful brother. Remind us again and again that there is no parting in love. Lord, you have loved him longer than we have. Take good care of Lee.”
A graduate of Sanderson High School, Kidd left Raleigh in search of adventure, his sister Anna told me, living for a time in both Austria and New Zealand. “He was always chasing the powder,” she said. For a time, he worked in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska, getting flown from lake to lake to take fish inventories.
At Saturday’s service, his St. Croix fly rod and tackle bag sat proudly next to his biology degree from Montana State. On a bulletin board covered with collected memories, friends raved about his zeal for outdoor pleasures, even with a touch of envy.
“I will always think of him when I fish the Upper Madison,” wrote Ron Quinn of Afton, Wyo., “and the time we found a goose egg in the river, which he later used to make a trout omelet.”
“Lee on a snowboard was a thing of beauty,” wrote Jonathan Kane of Raleigh. “Such a smooth, unique style.”
Like so many who live fervently, thriving on adrenaline, Kidd struggled with addiction. His own Facebook page makes clear alcohol nearly overtook him, haunting him for some dark years. But he found sobriety six months before his death. “He knew if he wasn’t able to conquer his addiction,” his sister wrote me Monday, “he’d not be able to explore the outdoors that he loved so deeply. That was a big part of it.”
As evidence of his new clarity, his family included some of Kidd’s own thoughts in his obituary: “I already feel that yearning to do some good in this world. I strive to live in the present and not overlook personal interactions in my daily life; an opportunity to be of service or just listen to those in my current bubble. As an individual, I’ve never experienced such a state of soundness, physically, mentally and spiritually.”
I never met Lee Kidd. But the stories his friends tell remind me of some of the more unforgettable people I’ve known – the people who shake your hand and send a little charge through it, who challenge you, even frighten you a little, but remind you that life is beautiful and short.
To remember Kidd
The family encourages donations in Lee Kidd’s memory to Teton County Search and Rescue (www.tetoncountysar.org), Grand Targhee K9 in Driggs, Idaho, or Fellowship Hall (meeting place of AA) at 2165 Durston Road, Bozeman, MT 59718.