The family and friends of Andrew Hossle this week are remembering the 31-year-old as an instrumental hand in the healing of others, a dynamic young man with his feet planted in civic engagement and a fast-made friend.
"Drew," as they called him, raised in Missoula, was a behavioral specialist with Western Montana Mental Health, an organization whose staff include his mother, friends and wife. His placement at C.S. Porter Middle School had spanned nine years.
"Drew had really found his calling working with those students in need," said Brandon Ihde, who worked with Hossle at the school and became close friends. "He was able to connect with those kids who really needed it, and it wasn't only that; Drew connected with adults the same way. He was always there for somebody, a high-five, a hug, anything."
Mineral County authorities recovered Hossle's body on Monday after it was located by a local rafting company. Four days earlier, Ihde said he was talking with Hossle on the phone, but Hossle had hung up abruptly as he was nearing Triple Bridges outside Alberton. It was the last time anyone would speak with Hossle.
The hole Hossle left behind is now being replaced with the memories from those who were close to him, so numbered that many of them are meeting for the first time, according to those who spoke with the Missoulian this week. Collections of memories have been posted to a GoFundMe account set up to help Hossle's family. The account, posted on Tuesday, raced past its $8,000 goal to nearly $9,000 by Thursday afternoon.
"I'm constantly amazed at the amazing young man he turned out to be," said his mother, Marcy Hossle. "I knew he touched a lot of peoples' lives, but I had no idea the impact he had."
Marcy Hossle said her son was a smaller boy in his youth. Hossle had experienced bullying as a child, and this sense then that the world had an upper hand on him was directly tied to his career path later in life, she said.
"He has just spent the last nine years working with the kids in the community to make it a better place for them," Marcy Hossle said. "He felt pain, their pain and social injustice so deeply. … It was a passion of his, to look out for the underdog."
Hossle eventually grew into a lanky frame and turned out to have a knack for music, arts and people. After graduating from Sentinel High School, he joined the Army ROTC on campus at the University of Montana. Adversity struck hard when he was 21 and suffered his first seizure, which uncovered his epilepsy. Hossle and his family then began a long grapple with the medical puzzle pieces that came with trying to find the right diagnosis, the right medication, the right dosage.
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The epilepsy forced him to take a medical discharge from the ROTC, but Hossle wouldn't slow down in his college years because of something he couldn't control. He picked up instruments from different parts of the world and mastered them with time. He grew skilled in kayaking. In his spare time, he completed a major in classic languages, Greek and Latin, and became a grand master of the Masons in Missoula; his father, uncle and grandfather were Masons. Ihde thought of him as a "Renaissance man."
After college, Hossle plugged right into Western Montana Mental Health, where he was placed at C.S. Porter. Over the course of nine years at the middle school, Hossle would be the one to bring new people into the fold at work.
"Whenever there was a new staff member, Drew was always the first one to reach out, the first friend," Ihde said.
Others with Western Montana Mental Health noticed his work, too.
"Missoula has lost a great light," said Eden Atwood, who works with Hossle's mom. "He was a great person who had a talent for bringing people together. For someone who did so much to instill hope in others, he lost his."
On Aug. 1, Idhe reported to law enforcement that Hossle had seemed "despondent" at the time he abruptly ended their phone call. Hossle's epilepsy had cooked up many troubles in his life. He had needed several surgeries to the shoulder he would fall on during seizures, and he had lost the independence youth craves, sometimes unable to drive for long periods of time. He had also been told to stay away from the water, but he especially enjoyed the Triple Bridges area of the Clark Fork River he traveled to that day.
It's not yet clear what happened to Hossle that evening, and suicide is still speculation as medical examiners continue their investigation into the cause of death.
Marcy Hossle sees her son's legacy not ended by difficult circumstances, but a story of accomplishment in the face of them.
"He did all of that against so much adversity," she said. "I'm just going to miss him more than I can say."