Alex Dalton was happiest outdoors.
“Ninety per cent of the time when I was with him, we were outside doing something,” said Dylan Webb, who grew up with Alex in Hagersville, spending many hours out in the bush.
Whether hunting wild turkey, riding dirt bikes or quads, setting up camp or snapping photos of wildlife — a more recent pastime — Alex was at home under the sky.
“He always told me his plan was to move out west and live in the snow hills and snowboard,” said Hayden Atkins.
“He was kind of a free spirit. He just did him.”
Alex was killed April 23 in a traffic collision near his Hagersville home. His many friends are still processing the loss.
“Nicest guy around. I don’t know a single person who didn’t like him,” said Julien Lafleur, who was inseparable from Alex throughout high school and college.
“If anybody asked him to do something, he would always say yes. We had to almost force him to say no to people, because he didn’t know how to say it.”
Trouble with your dirt bike or ATV? Alex could fix it. Stranded on the side of the road? There was only one guy to call.
“I don’t know how many times he went out in a snowstorm to pull someone out of a ditch who was an hour away, just because,” said Webb.
“He liked making people happy. Always had fun, and never let anything get him down.”
It was just after 9 p.m. when Alex’s motorcycle was hit from behind by an SUV. He was thrown into oncoming traffic and died at the scene.
Police found the SUV — which had been reported stolen — in a ditch a few streets away.
Witnesses saw two people flee from the car into the bush. Despite a search effort involving police dogs, a drone and a police helicopter, the suspects got away and remain at large.
Alex was 23.
Police ask anyone with information to call Haldimand OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or helpsolvecrime.com.
One of Alex’s neighbours started a GoFundMe campaign to add onto the $2,000 Crime Stoppers reward.
“Enough money will make somebody talk,” said Steve Slack. “There’s somebody out there who knows who it was and will come forward with the right amount of cash.”
The campaign had raised nearly $6,000 of its $50,000 goal as of Thursday.
If the culprits turn themselves in or are arrested without a tip from the public, Slack said he would give the money to Alex’s family.
“This boy, this incredible young man with big dreams and high hopes and an incredible love of life, deserves justice,” said Alex’s mother, Andrea King.
“His family, as we grapple with the devastating void that has shattered our world, deserves justice. His friends, his work crew, his hunting buddies, his cousins, his grandmas, his aunties, his uncles, his other families who loved my boy like their own, reeling at the news that he’s been taken from us and his adventures are through, deserve justice.”
An adventure Alex was especially excited about was rebuilding his old pickup truck, a 1998 Dodge Cummins he bought while studying fish and wildlife technology at Fleming College in Peterborough.
The truck had deteriorated after years of hard driving, but Alex had a vision for how to restore it.
“Alex was a big dreamer,” Lafleur said. “He told all of us, over and over again, plans that he had for this.”
As a tribute to the friend he considered a brother, Atkins launched a GoFundMe campaign to restore the truck and present it to his father, Wayne Dalton, to drive in Alex’s memory.
More than 250 people quickly contributed.
“I expected maybe $15,000 to be put into it, but we ended up at almost $30,000,” Atkins said.
“So we have lots of money to do everything he ever dreamed of with it, which is awesome.”
Alex wanted to be a conservation officer to share his love of the outdoors with others.
“He was there for the experience — to be part of the land and sustain himself from the land,” Webb said of their frequent hunting trips.
People knew to call Alex if a deer was hit on the road. He would happily go pick it up to harvest the meat.
“Just so nothing was wasted,” Webb said.
Alex was a member of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and his death has reverberated through the small community.
A Facebook post from Chief R. Stacey LaForme announcing Alex’s death prompted hundreds of messages of condolence to his loved ones, including his sister Kaytee and brother Jake.
Support for the family has poured in from far and wide.
“Not just Hagersville — they have the whole community of Haldimand behind them,” Webb said.
Former high school classmates in Norfolk County and friends from Alex’s college days have also reached out in the wake of his untimely death.
“The amount of people that he actually impacted in life was amazing,” Lafleur said.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator