MISSOULA – Friends and family of 28-year-old Shelley Hays, the man killed in last Friday’s shooting in Missoula, are still trying to process their loss.
While it’s difficult to tell someone’s life story in just a few sound bites, we spoke with one of Shelley’s childhood friends. Before long a picture emerged of a quintessential Missoula man who loved to laugh, loved his family and was completely devoted to his 5-year-old daughter.
Shelley never passed up a chance for fun. He loved fast bikes, fast trucks and snowmobiles. And if they weren’t fast enough, he could fix that.
Always surrounded by friends, he couldn’t help but make new ones wherever he went.
“He had a personality where he could make a friend out of anybody. Somebody that’s giving him that long stare, like they’re not sure. He’d go over there just to, I guess, make the situation better,” said Nick Cogar, Shelley’s friend since childhood. “He would create a conversation and all of a sudden by the time it was over, he’d have a friend. He was always social like that.”
Nick and Shelley met when they were seven years old, attending Hellgate Elementary School and Big Sky High School. Nick says they were rarely apart.
As a kid, Shelley, won awards for barrel racing and roping competitions, a love of horses that he’s passed on to his daughter, Cloey.
“She came first with everything. It didn’t matter,” Nick said. “He put in a lot of late hours to make sure he could give her everything she needed and you know, she was, how do you say that? He was wrapped around her finger.”
Shelley and a partner opened Maxed Out Performance in Missoula. As a talented mechanic, the business grew. But he never got too busy for what was really important to him.
“Family was everything to him. He was always the first one if anybody needed help, including me,” Nick said.
Nick has pictures of the adventures he and Shelley shared. He remembers the laughter, the fun and how Shelley could make the best of any situation.
He cast a wide net of friends and family around Western Montana. Many feel blindsided by his death as they remember their friend who seemed to have it all figured out.
“Anything to get out and socialize and have a good time, that’s what he was about. Just go and turn every stranger into a friend. That was pretty much his motto in life, that’s all he wanted. Just to make a name for himself, he wanted people to be proud of him and he just wanted to be cared for and respected, that’s all he wanted.”
Nick says he and Shelley were both busy with their children and didn’t get to spend a lot of time together lately, but he was looking forward to having his best friend to grow old with.
— Shelley’s family have recently set up a new Facebook fundraiser to cover funeral costs and other expenses. You can click here to donate. There is also a fundraiser set for Tuesday, March 26 at Paradise Falls in Missoula from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a silent auction and food.