Darrington man missing after Oso slide always thought of others

OSO — It was four weeks ago this morning that Steven Hadaway was swept away.

Since then, 39 bodies have been recovered from the debris fields left by the massive March 22 Oso mudslide. Hadaway is not among them.

The Darrington man’s name remains on the dwindling list of reported missing — a roster that as of Friday had been pared to four.

John Hadaway likes to think that is the way his big brother would have preferred it. He always figured that if there was a fire, Steven Hadaway would have been the last one out, making sure others were safe first.

“I believe that he would want everyone to be found before him,” John Hadaway said.

The Hadaways are grateful for each scoop of earth lifted and scoured in the search for the missing.

They know how daunting a task it has been. John and his brother, Frank, worked in the rubble for a time, breathing in gas and septic fumes in the rain and swampy mud.

In better weather, they helped retrieve relics strewn far and wide, buried in mounds of dirt and submerged in flood water.

“It was so horrible,” John said. “You feel like you are invading peoples’ privacy when you come across a photo. It just tears your heart out when you see a ball or a bicycle.”

Yet he also knows the importance to families and that the belongings are like bread crumbs on a trail leading to the lost.

Their own wait has been difficult, but they celebrate each time any family is reunited.

“We are just looking for the same closure,” John said. “It’s like we are treading water, just waiting for someone to pick us up.”

Steven Hadaway, 53, was installing a cable dish at a home on Steelhead Drive when the slide hit. A track of his rig’s GPS shows he arrived at the job at 8:15 a.m. The slide hit two hours and 22 minutes later.

Two other local men were installing a water heater at the home at the same time. William Welsh, 66, an Arlington electrician, and Stephen Neal, 55, a Darrington plumber, have been found. So has the home’s owner, Amanda Lennick, 31, a nurse who had just moved into the home.

Steven Hadaway moved to Darrington seven years ago because he craved rural life. He’d text his brothers pictures of Whitehorse Mountain and the natural beauty that surrounds his adopted small town, trying to make them envious.

He loved the idea of cutting firewood for winter warmth. Christmas was a favorite time. He’d bring out the strings of lights a month early, creating displays on his roof and across his yard. His would be the home everyone would drive by to see.

As a young man, Hadaway enlisted in the Marines.

Family and friends knew a softer side to the old leatherneck. They’d call him “a cream-puff Marine.”

Hadaway and his wife, Margaret, were foster parents before adopting three children — a boy with special needs and two girls. The couple would have celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary on Wednesday.

“Blood doesn’t make a family,” John Hadaway said.

Their son, Brandon, had a short life. He could neither walk nor talk when he died in 2000. He was 6, and in the first grade.

Steven affectionately would call his son Popeye. He later got a tattoo of the spinach-eating cartoon sailor on his forearm to honor his cherished child.

“They had a real heart for the underprivileged, people who were less fortunate,” said Jim Alexander, pastor for the Abundant Life Church of God of Prophecy, the church Hadaway attended. “He was just really good-natured. He loved his kids immensely.”

Hadaway had a deep faith in God.

That gives John Hadaway some solace as he imagines his brother’s last moments.

“I wouldn’t doubt one bit if he knew if the time came and he probably smiled and told God, ‘Here I come,’?” he said. “He is with his son and with my mom. He is in a better place. That’s how I look at it.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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