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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Loved ones remember how 3 killed in Silver Mountain avalanche sought adventure, spread goodwill

Silver Avalanche survivor Bill Fuzak sent a photo of 8 skiers involved just before the incident to the Millwood Brewery, whose owners were good friends with Carl Humphreys and knew of Scott Parsons. They had a giant print made of the photo and hung it up in the brewery within weeks of the tragedy. Owner Shelley Eslick-Watkins, pictured, calls the photo "the final traverse." The Millwood Brewery also paid for Carl's celebration of life at CenterPlace. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

As thousands of pounds of snow tumbled down Silver Mountain Resort in January, the avalanche plucked up the souls of three people who, in many ways, couldn’t have been more different but by all accounts led lives with strikingly similar values.

Dr. Molly Hubbard, a 33-year-old pediatric neurosurgeon, had friends that were like family on the East Coast, West Coast and in between. She used her gifted hands professionally to heal others, and personally to bake goodies for anyone and everyone – no special occasion necessary.

Carl Humphreys, a 58-year-old mortgage consultant, was known for surfing on lakes, taming rapids and bombing down slopes. But he devoted the latter part of his life to caring for his ailing wife and imparting his sense of adventure on his grandsons.

Scott Parsons, a 48-year-old entrepreneur who moved to Washington from California for a change of pace, packed a lifetime of world travels into several years. And he always made sure others knew they could do the same.

Friends and family remember Hubbard, Humphreys and Parsons for recognizing what mattered most to them and squeezing as much of it into their lives as possible.

And that trio heard the call of the mountains as loudly as anyone.

Dr. Molly Hubbard

The fact that Hubbard joined a group of seasoned skiers on the traverse to Wardner Peak during her first trip to Silver Mountain is a testament to her adventurous spirit, regulars at the ski resort say.

“She loved and needed her mountains,” Hubbard’s mother, Marry Hubbard, said in an email. “It’s where she grew up, and where she went to be her most genuine self and draw strength for herself. Biking, hiking, skiing, camping, etc.”

Hubbard was born in Vermont but moved to Utah with her family as a toddler. Beaver Mountain Ski Resort was her winter playground growing up.

“She had the best facial expressions, the best delivery of a line, and a ‘take no prisoners with a smile’ approach,” Mary Hubbard wrote.

In 2008 she graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, then went on to medical school at the University of Vermont in 2012, studying in the same hospital where she was born.

“Well known for her sarcastic wit, intellect, and passion for wellness, Molly had the unique ability to connect with everyone around her,” Hubbard’s medical school classmates wrote for the school’s magazine this spring.

Hubbard called her adventures around the world “Molidays,” and before she died she was preparing to summit Mt. Rainier to raise money for an outdoor mentoring program for young girls, according to her classmates. Her mother said she quickly made friends wherever she visited.

Hubbard completed a seven-year residency program in neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota in 2019, and in December she accepted an assistant professor position at Oregon Health Science University in Portland following a fellowship there in pediatric neurosurgery.

“She loved and enjoyed working with children,” Mary Hubbard said in an email. “It gave her great happiness to be able to work with them. She was a talented neurosurgeon who operated (pun intended) with a need and desire to make things as better as she was able.”

With friends and family, Hubbard had a knack for remembering birthdays, anniversaries and inside jokes, as well as just noticing when someone seemed down and needed to talk, her mother said.

“And always the baking,” Mary Hubbard wrote in an email. “Baked goods for everyone and any occasion, or no occasion.”

Hubbard’s family had planned a celebration of life for May 30 but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Molly had to be quite a spirit,” said Paul Hoskinson, a longtime Silver Mountain skier who said the neurosurgeon had been adopted into an odd fraternity of perennial season pass holders. “Without even knowing her we already know her, because otherwise she wouldn’t have been there.”

Carl Humphreys

Humphreys had skied Wardner Peak too many times for anyone to count when he made his final traverse in January.

Humphreys, who graduated from Central Valley High School, started visiting Silver Mountain with his brother Paul in the late ’70s, when the ski area had just one chair lift.

He later became known as the “Honey Badger” for hogging any fresh powder he spotted. To be sure he didn’t miss his chance at fresh tracks, Humphreys woke early and worked late during the winter.

And when the weather warmed up each spring, Humphreys traded in his skis for paddles to float the Lochsa River.

He learned to water ski and wakeboard on Liberty Lake, his home since 1999, long before it was popular, and then he figured out how to surf the lake trailing behind a boat.

“His true passion was the outdoors,” Humphreys’ stepson Darrick Hayman told The Spokesman-Review in January.

But many people he adventured with didn’t know about his life at home taking care of his wife of 25 years, Carra, who was diagnosed with dementia.

“He was a fantastic caretaker for her as long as he could do it himself,” Hayman said.

Carra Humphreys died on May 16. She was 59.

“It’s just a tragic love story,” said Shelley Eslick-Watkins, Carra’s best friend for decades.

“She was sweet and kind and gentle. Just a genuine soul,” Eslick-Watkins said of Carra, who worked at Valley Hospital and the Spokane Shiners Hospital for years.

“He kinda reminded you of the person who never had a bad day. He was always thinking of an adventure,” Eslick-Watkins said of Carl. “She was like his sidekick.”

One of the avalanche survivors sent Eslick-Watkins a photo of the skiers as they traversed to Wardner Peak that day. She had a large print of the photo hung in her business, Millwood Brewing Company, within a few weeks of the tragedy.

Humphrey’s celebration of life at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in January was standing-room only with more than 200 people in attendance.

Family members displayed memorabilia from Humphreys’ adventures, such as his skis, kayak and surfboard.

“We told great stories of Carl’s goings-on in Liberty Lake and his tales of mountain biking, surfing, and skiing around the Northwest,” Hayman said in an email.

Scott Parsons was a frequent partner of Humphreys, both on the mountain and in the river. They drove to Silver Mountain together and shared a locker the day they died.

Though Humphreys grew more careful in his later years, Hayman said he’s confident news of an avalanche wouldn’t have scared him away from the mountain.

“He would be chasing the next adventure,” Hayman said in January.

Scott Parsons

Parsons fell in love with the Pacific Northwest after moving to Washington in his early 20s. And within several years he bought his first season pass at Silver Mountain.

Other ski area regulars could pick him out from the crowd gliding down the mountain on his Grateful Dead-themed skis.

During the last few years, his new passion was scuba diving around the world, said Jennifer Ocheltree, his sister.

“He had an extreme sense of adventure,” Ocheltree said. “He absolutely loved travel.”

Parsons used his Facebook feed to share photos of his travels as way to show others what was possible, Ocheltree said. And he was always ready to provide advice about how to get to Thailand, Egypt, the Maldives and others places he visited.

“His big thing was, ‘Get out of your comfort zone. Live your best life now,’ ” said Ocheltree.

That approach extended to sharing business advice about digital marketing, his expertise, and to posts about how he’d helped someone during his day.

Parsons had recently found his soul mate, Sylvia Laberdee, and began traveling the world with her.

“He told us all the time how happy and fulfilled he was,” Ocheltree said. “He gave us that gift of knowing he was OK.”

He also acknowledged to loved ones that his adventures carried risks, Ocheltree said.

About 30 minutes before the avalanche, Parsons called Laberdee to say he was having “the best ski day of his life,” according to Ocheltree. She was expecting he’d be on his way home soon when news about the accident broke.

Just before Washington went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, close to 100 friends and family gathered at Northern Quest Resort and Casino to celebrate Parsons’ life.

Laberdee had the idea to coin the event “Scott’s Grateful Party” as a nod to his favorite band, and many attendees donned tie-dye for the celebration.

“It’s what he would have wanted,” Ocheltree said. “Lots of good memories, good music.”

Ocheltree said people recalled his distinctive cackly laugh and how he was always quick to greet strangers when he was in a new place.

“He always wanted to help people,” Ocheltree said. “He wanted to help them grow. He always wanted to keep learning, and he was always encouraging others to keep learning.”

Hoskinson, the Silver Mountain skier, also attended Parsons’ celebration of life to unveil the memorial that will be placed on the mountain to honor him, Humphreys and Hubbard.

“He’s one of the few that took a real personal interest in the people on the mountain,” Hoskinson said.

Added Ocheltree: “We’re just glad he went after his dreams and he did everything he wanted to do as quickly as he could do it.”

Memorial on the mountain

Hoskinson said Silver Mountain Resort gave him approval to mount the memorial – a plaque with their names affixed to a rusted antique metal cylinder and a ski hanging out of the bottom – on the traverse to Wardner Peak in March. That way, skiers can smack the metal with their poles before they descend.

But the COVID-19 pandemic closed the resort before a ceremony could be organized, Hoskinson said.

Instead, he hopes families and friends will join him in erecting the memorial on the anniversary of the avalanche.

Hayman said Humphreys’ family plans to spread some of his ashes on the mountain as well.

“When you look back at somebody, how rich are they really?” Hoskinson said. “These people are rich by how many people show up to memorialize them. … These people are rich with friends.”