Oak Creek's 'gentle giant' remembered

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The skies over Routt County were brilliant blue and cloudless when Blue Halterman passed away Friday.

Perhaps that was nature's way of saying goodbye to a man who friends and family say always had a smile on his face, even in the toughest and final moments of battling brain cancer.

Halterman, an almost lifetime resident of Oak Creek, died Friday morning at the Doak Walker Care Center. He was 31.

"He's going to be so missed by people," his mother, Karen Halterman, said. "He made such an impact on everybody."

Remembered for his gentle spirit, wit and positive outlook on life, Blue Eagle Halterman lived up to his name, given to him by his mother, who sensed her son's limitless potential just 10 days after he was born.

"There was something so expansive and large about him," she said. "We always knew Blue would have to have a large body to house his heart."

Known by locals as the "gentle giant," Blue wore a size 13 shoe by the time he was in sixth grade. People sometimes challenged him because of his size, but he was anything but a fighter, often calming contentious situations and helping the underdog.

"He was just a real gentle, wonderful guy," said Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman, Oak Creek mayor and close family friend. "I don't know of anybody that didn't like him."

Rodeman organized an 11-hour Blue Fest benefit shortly after Blue was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the fall of 2003. The event was hugely successful, with hundreds of friends showing their support for Blue.

That didn't surprise his mother, who describes Blue as a people magnet with a huge network of friends, many of whom visited him during his last days at the Doak Walker Care Center.

He also seemed to have a particular charm with the ladies.

"Blue used to say he couldn't help it, that women just gravitated toward him," she said.

People appreciated Blue's intense wit and sense of humor. He loved imitating foreign accents and making up characters -- such as "Nigel" the Englishman -- and even hammed it up by impersonating longtime Oak Creek locals, his mother said.

From New Year's toasts to standing on the table singing Garth Brooks songs, 26-year-old Jed Rodeman has a hard time nailing down his most memorable moments with Blue.

"He was one of a kind," he said. "He had a special spirit. People like that can't be replaced."

Blue enjoyed sketching and was a star wrestler and captain of the Soroco High School football team.

He also worked as a chef and bartender in numerous restaurants including Chelsea's, the Old Town Pub, Big Tuna's, The Colorado Bar and Grill and the Curve Market and Deli.

Blue was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor after he experienced a seizure. He went into remission in January 2004 with help from chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

During remission, he went fishing, rode his bike and was amazingly vital, his mother said.

In September, however, the tumor returned, along with several others near his brain stem. He began intense chemotherapy treatments at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards.

"He fought such a hard, valiant fight between that time and yesterday morning," Karen Halterman said.

In December, about halfway through the six-week treatment, doctors discovered another tumor developing on Blue's brain. Instead of trying a risky radiation treatment, he opted to try herbal and holistic treatments at home.

From that point, he steadily declined, losing his ability to speak and stand up.

About a month ago, Blue's father, an American-Indian shaman who he'd only met several times, came to Oak Creek to do a healing pipe ceremony in Blue's room.

"That was very moving," Karen Halterman said.

Blue was half American-Indian. He always loved and admired his father, who -- at Blue's request -- came to his son's high school graduation.

Through that connection, a group of elderly American-Indian women from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, handknit a star quilt with a blue eagle in the middle for Blue.

His cremated remains will be wrapped in that blanket, his mother said.

She and Blue's brother, Max Halterman of Santa Cruz, Calif., plan to spread Blue's ashes in the Pacific Ocean.

"He always conducted himself with dignity until the very end," Karen Halterman said. "We are sending him on the next leg of his journey with all the dignity every Native American man deserves."

Oak Creek businesses have chipped in to buy blue ribbons for residents to tie on car antennas and rear view mirrors to remember Blue and show support for Karen Halterman.

The ribbons are available at most businesses throughout town. Donations for the ribbons will be accepted to help pay for funeral costs.

A memorial service for Blue Halterman will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday in the Soroco High School gym.

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