When former Utahns Kathi and Jon Strawn sat down Wednesday morning to think of what to include in their sons' obituaries, they kept coming back to the same things.
"They loved life, and they loved to live it to the fullest," Kathi Strawn recollects. "They loved to push it to the limits and see how much they could do. They just loved to be outside, and they loved to do things together."
The Strawn family moved to Alaska from Salt Lake City 10 years ago.
The bodies of the three Strawn brothers, Kevin, 27, Travis, 21, and Colby, 15, were found still tied together with a hiking rope Monday night after what appears to have been an avalanche accident on Mount Foraker in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Over the past weekend, the three had radioed in to the base camp several times, but Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said concern for the brothers grew when a circling pilot did not see them on the climb.
The Park Service sent up a rescue helicopter to search for the brothers Monday afternoon and spotted tracks about 10,500 feet. The three bodies were found at 8,500 feet.
The family was able to recover a roll of film from the boys' hiking bag, which revealed that the Strawn brothers had reached the summit of Mount Foraker and probably got into trouble on their way back down.
Although the cause of the accident is still uncertain, McLaughlin said there was evidence of avalanche activity.
The Strawn brothers were all experienced mountaineers, and both Kevin and Travis had previously climbed Mount Rainier, the Chugach Mountains and the Grand Tetons. Kevin and Travis had also previously hiked Mount Foraker but wanted to do it again with their youngest brother, Colby.
The impact of losing three of her six children is starting to settle in for Kathi Strawn.
"I mean, how does it feel to lose half your family? It's awful. It's devastating. It's going to be lonely," Kathi said. "They were my favorite hiking companions."
The oldest Strawn son, Brad, was supposed to be with his three brothers on the hike up Mount Foraker but was detained by his plans for a July wedding and his classes at Georgetown University
Travis left a wife and two young boys. Kevin left a wife and a baby girl.
Kathi Strawn said although the deaths have devastated the family, the accident will not deter the Strawn family from being adventurous and carrying on the "Strawn Family Expedition" of life that Kevin, Travis and Colby loved so dearly.
After hearing of the accident, Kathi Strawn said she and her husband took a hike up the ridge behind their home because that's what their sons would have done. One of the boys' sisters had loaned Colby the hiking pants he was wearing when he rescue team found his body. Kathi Strawn said his sister now plans on wearing the pants on every climb in the future so that she can take Colby with her.
Kevin Strawn had just received his business degree and was working toward becoming an investment banker. His mother said he always approached life with gusto and believed that if you didn't live life as a challenge, then you didn't live.
"He was always the happiest, biggest smiling face. He just thoroughly enjoyed life," she said.
Kathi described Travis Strawn as her child who was "always on the go."
"He was working full time and in school full time." But most of the time, Kathi Strawn said, he was enjoying being with his wife and little girl.
Colby Strawn had just finished his freshman year at Chugiak High School and had a passion for music. He played in a jazz band and excelled at mathematics. He was also trying to finish his Eagle Scout Project, an experience his mother said he looked forward to sharing with his four brothers, who all have their Eagle Scout awards.
All three of the boys enjoyed doing anything outdoors, including kayaking, hiking and snowboarding."I feel like half of my family is gone, but I know they were doing things they enjoyed and they were doing things as family," Kathi Strawn said.
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