Pictures show him in a wheelchair, smiling. He suffered from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He relied on technology to communicate. Despite severe physical limitations, he lived with joy and purpose.
Hashman died Jan. 31 at age 56, leaving his wife and two grown children. It was 2013 — the year he ran two half marathons and climbed Japan’s Mount Fuji — when Hashman was diagnosed with ALS. A progressive neurodegenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
“He loved life and found joy in everything,” said Marcia Hashman, his widow, who lives in Marysville. “He wanted to be an inspiration to people. He needed that.”
In August 2014, the summer of the Ice Bucket Challenge that raised $115 million to benefit the ALS Association, Hashman was featured in this column. For his 53rd birthday, former members of the Mountlake Terrace High School Dynamics choral group organized a reunion honoring the teacher who’d led them in singing. Hashman taught at the school 1985-1990.
“He had a really wonderful impact on my life,” said Wendy Poischbeg, a 1987 Mountlake Terrace graduate who sang with the Dynamics. “He gave me life lessons I took into adulthood.”
At their tribute concert, onetime students shared stories of how Hashman changed their lives. Poischbeg, formerly Snohomish County’s cultural and economic development manager, said that even as his illness worsened Hashman came to her 2015 wedding.
He kept making music after ALS robbed him of movement in his legs and arms.
Through the Gleason Initiative Foundation, the Hashmans were able to get computer-operated technology allowing him to use his eyes to compose music. The foundation is named for Steve Gleason, a former standout at Washington State University and New Orleans Saints NFL player diagnosed with ALS in 2011.
“Steve Gleason helped us get our very first eye-gaze technology,” Marcia Hashman said. Her husband used his eyes — blinking or dwelling on parts of the screen — to run the software and write music.
Last September, he finished his last song, “Glory to God in the Highest,” having written all the music and lyrics.
“God was our strength,” his widow said. The song was performed at a December concert by the Mosaic Arts Choir and Orchestra. “He got to hear it,” she said. The choir is directed by Allan Skoog, a pastor at North Sound Church in Edmonds.
On March 3, loved ones and friends gathered at North Sound Church for a celebration of Hashman’s life. He is survived by his wife, their daughter, Anna Kitchener, 28, and 26-year-old son, James Hashman.
“Jim accepted people for who they were,” said Kurt Sasse, of Lake Stevens, who first met his friend in sixth grade at Mountlake Terrace Christian School. “He always encouraged people to be the best they can be.”
Sasse said his son, Nicholas, “a pianist like Jim,” also learned to use the Sibelius music composition software.
Marcia Hashman met her future husband in Seattle the summer before ninth grade. He earned an undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University and a master’s from the University of Washington. He was born in Japan, where his dad had been an Air Force pilot. “He always wanted to go back to Japan,” she said.
That wish came true. Hashman left Mountlake Terrace to teach in the overseas school system with the U.S. Department of Defense. They lived in Panama before moving to Iwakuni, Japan, where he taught music. By 2007, he was head of fine arts programs for Defense Department schools in Japan, South Korea and Guam. Before returning to the Northwest, they lived on the Japanese island of Okinawa.
Marcia Hashman became her husband’s caregiver. They had help from many friends, who became known as “Hashman’s Heroes” on Facebook.
Eventually, Hashman had a tracheotomy, was on a ventilator and needed round-the-clock care. Emilie Daniels, an emergency room technician at Swedish Medical Center Ballard, became a part-time helper. Daniels’ mother had gone to school with Jim Hashman.
“I didn’t see it as a caregiver role,” Daniels said. “When I was there, I called it hangin’ with Jim. He was interested in what book I was reading, and what was going on in my life. It was incredible to watch him write music.”
Daniels, who lives in Everett, remembers Hashman’s excitement when he ordered red roses online for his wife at Christmastime. “He just really loved her,” Daniels said. She also recalled how he loved seeing Christmas lights.
Marcia Hashman said her husband had been in rock bands, one called the Handsome Strangers. With Sasse and other buddies, he also made beer. “They just brewed two batches in honor of Jim,” she said.
Hashman’s Heroes was the name of their team that walked in a Bellingham fundraising event to benefit the ALS Association, Marcia Hashman said.
“Anybody who loved Jim, anybody who supported us with prayers, love and concern became a Hashman Hero,” she said. “Everybody said Jim was the real hero.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.