Right until she stumbled and fell from a ledge during a hike on April 2, Palo Alto resident Carol Hyde's love and enthusiasm for life and people affected everyone she met. She was the kind of person who instantly made people feel they were the most special person in the room, her friend, Julie Bitler, said.
Hyde, 53, was hiking with her husband and daughter near the Devil's Bridge, north of Sedona, Ariz., in an area known for its rock formations when she fell about 75 feet in a freak accident, her husband Larry said. She was sitting on a nearby rock while he took photos of their 13-year-old daughter, Melanie. For some reason, she stood up and tripped, and the momentum caused her to fall head-first into the ravine, he said.
A trauma nurse and several other people immediately went to her aid. Winds of more than 20 miles per hour and gusts exceeding 35 miles per hour prevented her evacuation by air ambulance, he said. With precious minutes turning into hours, rescue personnel carried her about a quarter mile to an off-road vehicle, and she was taken by ambulance to the Flagstaff Medical Center, where she succumbed to her extensive injuries several hours later.
Hyde loved to travel and to plan vacations. She would plan the trips and pull out maps, and she loved the American Southwest in general, visiting Anasazi ruins and hiking in Utah, according to her husband.
"She spent endless hours researching the very best place to stay and the very best things to do," Larry Hyde said. "She had been looking forward to going to Sedona for the last year or so. Even despite this tragedy, she was doing something she wanted to do and she was where she wanted to be."
Carol Hyde had a way that affected people deeply, even those who barely knew her. Persons who had encountered her on the trail that day said they immediately felt her warmth and caring spirit.
"In just the few moments we shared at the bridge, Carol made us smile with her friendly, caring way. I can only imagine how amazing she was in life," Alisa Hoover, who was also hiking in the same area, said in a posting below a story about the tragedy by the Verde Independent newspaper in Cottonwood, Ariz.
"Everybody had the same impression of her and feeling about her -- her compassion, her friendliness, the smile. She always made children feel very special. She made you feel like you were the most special person when she met you," Bitler said.
Hyde was loving, gentle, bright, generous and warm, she said.
"I've never heard her utter a negative word about somebody. I never heard her complain. She just had a positive, joyful outlook about life. She made you happier when you were around her," Bitler said.
Hyde was a Palo Alto native. She graduated from Cubberley High School in 1978 and from U.C. Santa Barbara in 1983. She worked at Kidder, Peabody & Co. in Palo Alto from 1984 to 1985 as an assistant to a broker. She met her husband at the firm, he said. The couple moved to New York where she worked as a graduate career counselor at Pace University from 1987 to 1990. They returned to Palo Alto that year, and she worked as the office manager at Crate and Barrel for 10 years.
Hyde loved hiking, camping, and the outdoors in general. She was an accomplished runner, having twice competed in the New York City Marathon, her husband said. She was a member of Palo Alto's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Hyde was an avid Stanford football and San Jose Sharks fan, and she always made efforts to arrive before the gates opened to maximize family time at the fun events, he said. She loved studying her family lineage, making a trip to Norway where she visited the town of her ancestors.
But the real profession and joy of her life was her family, her husband said. It was a role she poured her soul and creativity into, he said.
Halloween was her favorite holiday and she used her creativity on costumes for Melanie, he said. She spent countless hours with her daughter at the Christian Music Theater at Grace Lutheran Church.
"She was a wonderful wife and mother. She was thoughtful. She would think about how she said things. She was very thoughtful about the way she approached people," her husband said.
Hyde also found great love and value in tradition, even in the smallest event, Bitler said. It wasn't about grand adventures. It was the little things -- a sandwich or a walk of a ball game -- the shared events that make up a life. And she turned those events into part of her personal and family narrative.
"She really valued her history in Palo Alto and growing up here. She enjoyed running into people in town with their kids that she grew up with, and now her kid's playing with their children," she said.
Hyde is survived by her husband, Larry; her daughter, Melanie; her father, Leland Stewart, all of Palo Alto; and her sister, Louise Stewart (Craig) and niece and nephew Alison and Jason of Santa Barbara. She was preceded in death by her mother, Mary Stewart, a Palo Alto art teacher.
A memorial service will be held at on Saturday, May 17, at 1 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church, 3149 Waverley St., Palo Alto.
Condolences may be sent to the family at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of choice or to: Melanie M. Hyde (Memo: Education Donation Fund) c/o Wells Fargo Bank, 400 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 100, Palo Alto, Calif. 94301 Attn: Brett Levy.