"I wish none of this had happened."
"So do all who live to see such times, but it is not for us to decide. All that is for you to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you."

JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Celebrating Hunter's Life:

Hunter and Smudge the day they got the latest diagnosis

So many people have been brought together by the life of one boy. Some of us knew him well, others only by photo. Some of us know one another as a result of him, while many of us are strangers to each other. One thing we all have in common is a shared love for this old child and his family, and a need to share him among ourselves and with the world.

I invite you all to share your "Hunterisms" here, those stories that reveal the true mischevious optimist behind the innocent eyes. Please tell us about those bizarre "coincidences" that have brought you here, and share your photos and other art.

From Heather Gould, your friendly web mistress:

I have so many wonderful Hunter stories to tell, some of which are second-hand and simply need to be told (unless - ahem - someone better qualified can tell the stories such as the "bite me" x-ray and the dark place). At some other point in the future I'll record some of these here.

I've known Betsy since my college days at Cazenovia, where we met a few months before Hunter's birth, and I ended up renting a room in her cabin andproviding nanny services for Hunter. This was a special boy from the start...he always seemed to have this peaceful, knowing smile, and the photos of his smiles were anything but an exception to the rule! This kid was always smiling!

As the years passed, I was blessed to be able to watch Hunter grow up, followed closely by Mariah. As he hit adolescence, I was part big brother and part "parental unit" (his words, not mine!). I feel honored to be able to portray his struggle from an insider's perspective, though no one can know the battle from his mother's point of view. I am so very grateful that I was there to help capture many moments in the life this very photographed child. Finding the best smiles for the tribute in the Aussie Times to remember him on this first anniversary was not a difficult task (though I must admit I took very few of those photos!). For those of you outside of the Aussie commpunity, I just wanted to share these - I don't think most of them are on the site, and they are the real kid.

From Sue Bishop:

When did I meet Hunter and his family.?...I really can't remember. He was always the little redhead in Jr. Handling, and soon there was a gorgeous little blonde girl in pee-wees. I think it was their beauty that made me notice them at first. And then I found out that they were brother and sister. I think it was Frieda Mazzone that pointed out their mother - 'there, that redhead - her name used to be MacDonald'. Of course Frieda knew everyone ! Then I learned about Hunter's illness and followed his ups and downs through the years. Frieda suggested that WASCUNY supply some toys for the kids one Christmas, and we continued that the next Christmas when money was tight.

Who couldn't love those kids?? I got to know them and found out that their physical beauty was the least of their attributes and their personalities - their love for all living things - their politeness - their very sparkle - was their strong suit. But they could really give Betsy a headache sometimes. I remember one year at the Leaf Peeper show in Cambridge NY Hunter led a bunch of kids into a nearby cornfield and then couldn't find his way out. I can't remember how they got out, but Betsy had something to say to them when they finally did.

One year at the July Sparkler, Hunter had just gotten out of the hospital but insisted on coming to the show, so Betsy and company were going to tent it. I suggested that she borrow my little pop up trailer so Hunter wouldn't have to sleep on the ground, and they all loved it so much I gave it to them. Every time Hunter saw me he told me over and over how much he loved that trailer. Heck, it was just an old pop up that was too much for me to handle anymore and I was glad that someone could use it but in true Hunter fashion he made me feel like he had received the best thing ever. Hunter knew how to make other people feel like a million dollars.

There are a few people in one's life who make an indellible mark on one's heart, and Hunter and his family are mine. There are no words to say how we all will miss him, but he is just a heartbeat away. We will be able to look into the starry sky and see him there, smiling down on us. And he'll be there in the ring, when we get where he is, showing Smudgie in Junior Handling. Woo-hoo, Hunter !

From Rob Bick:

My name is Rob Bick and I got to know the Atkinson family through the building of a somewhat unsightly yet entertaining treehouse...the result of an article I read regarding his desire for a million dollars or a tree house.

I have one Hunterism that I recite to myself or anyone else who listen when I am in one of my "soapbox" moods. I can recall sitting and chatting with him one day previous to rounds of treatment. I asked how long he had to go for treatment and he said 10 days. My typical adult response was "thats a long time." His response...so cool...so collected...so mature, yet comical at the same time, was: "At least its not 2 weeks".

I was at once amazed and ashamed. He was probably all of 10 at the time, and exhibited such optimism in the midst of his difficulties. He was an amazing person, more of an adult than most adults I know. The blessing is that I knew him, that we all did. As professionals we all have a tendency to worry about "things." How much, how little, when is it due, what do you mean etc. etc. What he said to me means more than all the quotes I have ever read combined, all the sermons, you name it. It was pure, unmuddled, no bullshit optimism. It became part of me, and I thank him for it.

From Linda Casella:

Dearest Hunter,
I am happy that the picture I took of you on July 5, 2003 came out so well. I am peaceful that we had that time on the front porch to say the things few people get to say when time is so short. You are a blessing in my life now and always.
I love you more than ice cream.

Your God Mother.....Linda Cassella

From Tracy Alde:

A few years back I spent a summer at Betsies home taking care of her "herd" while Hunter received his treatments. During that summer I had the pleasure to chat with Hunter and affectionately named him "The First Dude". His manner was such that I was sure he should become The President. I still feel the same. Love you man!

Tracy L. Adle AIC, API, AIS
Property Claims Adjuster

From Renee` St. Jacques:

When I first met Hunter we were just kids, doing Jr. Handling, agility, and not knowing what life had in store for us, but the one thing we had in common was our love for the dogs.(Aussies to be exact) I had no idea then how good a friends we would be and what a great impact he would make on me. So many people loved and cared about Hunter. I was so surprised to see that I only knew about 1/4 of the people at the funeral - It was so amazing!

When I started to say something to everyone on the microphone, I could not quite finish. So I would like to say it now. The second to last time I saw Hunter, I came over and we jumped on the trampoline. I fell and knocked my head. He was so worried about me, even though I was perfectly fine

He never cared about himself but the safety of others. He dedicated his whole life to help other people. Which just amazes me. We go on everyday figuring that we will live to a ripe old age, not knowing how little time we have to do good. Hunter knew he might have such little time (even though we had hopes) so he tried to do the best he could. He never asked for anything, except "Can I help you?"

Meeting Hunter the last time was so hard but he was relaxed and not scared. He and I just talked about different things, he was so brave that I thought of him as my knight in shining armor, of Arthur's round table (doing good for the people). I know how he said how special I was to him but I hope he knows how special he was to me and everyone that knows him. I have met and liked a few guys but I will never forget Hunter and the way we danced all night to a juke box in a bar :+)   or how we swam in the swimming pool and played Nintendo and had a pillow fight in the Hotel and went skiing down the slopes. I will never forget that weekend not because of the hotel or the dinner or skiing but because Hunter was there. He was such a gentleman (holding the door open everytime I went through ) and just thinking of everyone else except himself. To a human that could be hard, you can't be nice to everyone, but to Hunter, that was just another day at work.

Thank you Hunter, you have just earned a vacation (but knowing him he will still be at work in Heaven) :+)
Hunter you have been a loving friend and I am honored
I love you

From Dawn Fitzpatrick:

My name is Dawn Fitzpatrick, and I work on 7H at Upstate. I was just looking at Hunter's page, and I saw the photos from the fireworks for Hunter. Seeing Betsy with a sparkler inspired me to share one particular Hunterism that I will never forget. ( I wonder where that cute guy is from your sparkler story Betsy!!! ) I am really going to miss Hunter, Betsy and Mariah.

Hunter was in for his stem cell transplant. One evening, I believe it was Mariah that came to get me and told me that Hunter had gotten sick. Well, at the thought of this my heart dropped to my shoes as I struggled to remain calm as not to upset Mariah or Betsy. I went into Hunter's room where I found a puddle of puke that was foamy and bloody spilled from a basin on the bathroom floor. Betsy was upset and said that she had told Mariah not to spill it. I looked at Mariah to tell her that it was okay, and she apologized in a shaky voice.....I just stood there in my gown and gloves wondering how I was going to get someone in there yesterday without looking like I was panicking ,and scared to death that Hunter was vomiting up blood. At this point, Hunter called weakly for me and held his hand out to me. I left the mess on the floor and went over to take his hand. Just as I took hold of his hand, he sprang forward and "ralphed!!!!!" I jumped out of my skin and they all burst into laughter....the puke was rubber with water and betadine sprinkled on top.

From Margaret Meleski:

You know… I don’t even remember when I first met Hunter – It can’t be more than 4 years ago, but I feel I’ve known him a lifetime. Hunter gave me so many gifts – he taught me to say “I love you”, he taught that hugs or an arm around someone’s shoulder can mean so much, he taught me that in order to feel better sometimes you have to care for someone else, he reminded me to look for the silver lining in situations that seemed grim, and he taught me to never give up. Perhaps most importantly, I’d like to think that Hunter has helped me to re-find my faith.

But the very “funnest” thing Hunter ever did for me was to remind me to always be young at heart! This guy and I almost always found something to laugh at – even if he was in the hospital fighting that awful sick feeling or a fever. The last time they did a marrow harvest on him, I went over and he made me pull some hair from his head… but it had to be done very carefully because he was creating a special “do” with the hair he left behind even though the “do” wouldn’t last for long. I told him he looked like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” and my beloved Hunter starts to thrash and act all nutty. To him, this was a compliment!!! He never missed an opportunity to make something that might be seen as a negative into a positive. I always told him how much I wished he were in my family and how well he would fit in.

I know we’re talking about “Hunter-isms”, but I have to say something about the woman who made Hunter into such an incredible young man. Betsy and I talked about whether Hunter was created so special because of what he had to endure, or if his long battle turned Hunter into the person he was. It might be a little of both, but Betsy is such an inspiration, too. How many days in a row did she sit at the hospital without ever leaving the building? And she supported and encouraged Hunter as he learned all he could about his disease. In spite of all they were facing, Betsy nurtured Hunter’s need to experience and enjoy as much of the world as he could. She would bend heaven and earth for her son – and I just hope everyone knows what an amazing woman she is. I love you, Betsy, and I’ll never forget you taught me that the power of love could move mountains.

Hunter helped me make some great new friends, too. Mariah – what a beautiful young lady… and she carried the burden of having her mom and brother at the hospital so gracefully. Rose – Hunter’s grandmother – what an incredibly strong and loving woman. Heather, who chronicled Hunter’s fight and kept us in touch with Hunter’s life through the good and bad times. She has been so strong for the whole Atkinson family. I know she thought of Hunter as “her boy”, too. Renee and Tyler are very special people and I know that they are going to have a huge impact on this world because of their deep bond with Hunter. Maggi – man… that guy has to win the award for being Hunter’ craziest friend, but this man loved Hunter fiercely! I’m sure I’m missing lots of Hunter’s friends in this list, but I’d like to think that through Hunter, I can call all these people “friend”, too.

Now – let me tell you my favorite “Hunter” story (although there are lots like this!): We were all at Over Rover in Cato for an agility trial. Hunter and I were sitting at the food stand chatting and I had an idea… I put some ketchup on my hand and told Hunter he has something on his head and as I wiped the imaginary stuff away I left a huge gob of Ketchup on his almost baldhead. He kept asking what it was and I said it was just a piece of fuzz or something – well he didn’t believe me (can you imagine??) and he went to wipe his head and found a bunch of ketchup. His face got the most mischievous grin and next thing I know he and I are in a food fight. Betsy didn’t really approve (which is true of many of Hunter’s and my ideas) but she let us “play.” This food fight turned into a water and ice fight that lasted the rest of the day. At the end of the day, Betsy was getting everyone ready to go home and Hunter said, “hey Mags, why don’t you go home and get Zoe and we’ll all camp and you can be our adult supervision.” Betsy snaps her head around and said, “ OH NO!! She is NOT considered adult supervision!”

Thank you Hunter for making me into a person who is not considered “adult supervision.” It’s the best gift I’ve ever received! I love you more than words can say, and I carry your spirit in my heart.

From Karen Moody:

Hi Everyone, Hi Betsy, I am long winded so please bear with me.

In reading this site for so long, and then having request for peoples connection with Hunter I have to admit that I felt bad, as I did not really Know Hunter all that well , in my heart he was there. But to say I knew him I can't, only when he was alot younger. He has impacted my life in such a way that I am not sure I can put it into words.

I have known Betsy since we were young wild teenagers showing horses. We had a lot of fun together. As I was sitting today and sharing some of Hunters story with a friend of mine I realized something very ironic {or very Hunter}. Thru the horse shows Betsy fell in love with someone that was very special to me, you know all you dog lovers, there are dogs and then there are Heart dogs. My heart dog was Injun. Injun was an Australian Shepherd. So, I had the privilege of getting Betsy her very first Aussie. She actually kept him in her dorm room at Cazenovia college. As time went on she did her thing, I did mine, but we would see each other at horse shows and remained friends. Years later, my cousin Margaret O'Neil, {you all know her as Maggie} fell in love with one of my Aussies {Katie} . As life would have it Maggie's time with Katie was very short as Katie had cancer. Maggie fell in love with the breed and wanted to buy one. Who better I thought than Betsy. The relationship between Maggie and Betsy and Hunter had begun.

As time went on and we heard of Hunters illness Maggie and I decided to do a little something to help raise some money for them. My friends owned a pet store and we decided to have people bring their pets for a picture with Santa and the proceeds would go to Hunter. Mag We raised some money and had a great time. Someone had dropped off a Rottweiler puppy at the pet store the day before all this took place. They had too many and could not sell them, so they had hoped someone would see her at the pet store and by her. She was tied in back and the only one to see her was me, I hauled her out an asked if I could take her home for the night so she did not have to be alone all night. I got her home and Maggie and I decided she was a really good looking pup and very well mannered, sooo I called the owners and made a deal for her.

Injun died in 1989, this was 1996. I had many dogs in between those years and had 3 others at the time. No dog even came close to my heart, until her. So, as I sat today thinking about Hunter and all he had to offer everyone it came to me that years ago because of his illness I got my Heart dog. How do you explain that? My pastor today talked about what is love, the things he said made me realize that God lived thru Hunter. To Besty: I love you and my heart is broken for your loss, but it also smiles to know how blessed you are to have shared all those years with Hunter that was so full of God. To Hunter : I Thank you with my heart for Shadie, I know you know what she means to me. I also know you know we have just started agility and I know you are there with us every step of the way. I also Thank you for your wisdom and your faith. You have impacted me deeply . I will be a better person, I will be kinder and more tolerant and I Will have fun.

Karen Moody

From the Eldridge Family:

We had known Hunter as an acquaintance for a few years but really got to know Hunter, Betsy & Mariah more the last year after getting our own Aussie. I guess what strikes me the most is how positive & helpful Hunter was to everyone but at the same time just a "normal" kid. At the Lake Effect Aussie shows last December, Hunter was helping all of our 4-H kids with their grooming & handling. We teased him that he was a typical sibling - helping my son Tom groom Baloo so he could give Mariah a run for her money in their class.

At that same show the Open Junior class consisted of Hunter & my daughter Kate. The judge worked those two kids at least 20 min - with total silence in the building as we all watched. Finally the judge threw up his hands & pointed to Hunter - saying it was one of the toughest classes he ever judged. And Kate came out of the ring saying it was an honor to be second in that class.

Hunter also had a knack for bringing out the best in other people. Tom, age 10, sort of "hero worshipped" Hunter. Tom became convinced that if he could just get enough money Hunter could be cured. So he marched into school & informed his principal that he would be doing a fund raiser for Hunter. Then Tom came home & made pipe cleaner spiders (I know that sounds gross, but they were colorful & cute). He took them to school & sold over 200 of them - earning over $100 for Hunter.

So Hunter left a legacy for others - an example of a life well lived, inspiration to help & think of others & how to face tragedy with courage. How much we can all learn from a 13 yr old boy!

Deb, Kate & Tom Eldredge

Home  |  Hunter's Story  |  Notes & Celebrations  |  Hunter's Cure Book  |  "Hunterisms"  |  Hunter's Message


View and Sign Hunter's Guest Book!!!


Email the webmistress.