May 2, 1978 – Dec. 27, 2022
Dayle Erin Morningstar Laird, 44, passed away Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, at Centura Mercy Hospital in Durango, Colo., with her husband at her side.
She was born in McCook, Neb., on May 2, 1978, to William Rick and Maureen (Hassler) Johnson. She graduated from McCook High School in 1996 and attended Chadron State College and then transferred to Northwest Florida State College in Destin, Fla., where she graduated with a degree in psychology. She began working for Okaloosa County EMS as an EMT. She continued her education and earned a paramedic certification, and also worked as an ocean lifeguard. She had experience in swift-water SAR, open-ocean SAR and wilderness SAR. While in Florida, she worked and performed many rescues during both Hurricanes Ivan and Francis in 2004, and was sent out of state to help with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Dayle spent eight years in Florida before moving to Albuquerque, N.M., working as a paramedic. During this time she earned her master’s degree from Troy University in health care administration. While working in Albuquerque on the night shift she witnessed the unbelievable inhumanity of men against their fellow men, women and children and began to develop sleep issues.
In 2012, she was hired by Air Methods in Durango, Colo., and became a critical care paramedic, the highest level of paramedics specializing in air medic response, infant, child and perinatal care. As a flight medic riding in helicopters in the Rockies, she relished the change from working in the inner city to the mountain environment. One of the pilots she worked with was Brandon Laird. A romance ensued and they exchanged vows on Telluride mountain on June 8, 2017. In 2016, Air Methods merged with Flight for Life and they were both without employment. Loving what they were doing, they started up a helicopter flight school named Colorado Highland Helicopters, instructing pilots how to navigate in mountainous terrain, growing their business to three helicopters and partnering with law enforcement for mountain rescues and training. She was so proud of what she and Brandon built.
After being told by doctors she would never be able to have a child, she and Brandon were blessed with two miracle babies, Brohdy and Ghrey, whom she dearly loved. Her sleep issues continued to haunt her and after an incident on Wolf Creek Pass, she developed PTSD, common in so many first responders. She sought treatment twice, at both the First Responder Treatment Center Chateau Recovery in Utah and First Responder Wellness by Simple in California. In the end, her demons won out and she lost her battle with PTSD.
She was so proud of her profession and helping people in their most difficult times. She was a patriot, a supporter of law enforcement and a proud conservative. She was proud of her midwestern upbringing and grateful for being raised in Nebraska. In keeping with her desire to help others, she was an organ donor, giving others the gift of life.
She is survived by her husband, Brandon; son, Brohdy Michael, 8 and daughter, Ghrey James, 3; father William Rick and step-mother Karmon Johnson, McCook; mother Maureen Wood and step-father Lonnie Wood, McCook; brother Clint Johnson, McCook; step-brother Aaron Felker (Nen); nephews Jeremy, Isaiah and Gabriel, Hutchinson, Kan.; step-brother, Bryan Wood (Jennifer); nieces Byanka, Jayda and Arya, McCook; aunts Debra Kay Johnson, McCook, and Elizabeth Hoyt, McCook; uncles Jerry Hassler (Kathleen), Scottsdale, Ariz., and Robert Hassler, Phoenix, Ariz.; and many cousins, all who loved her.
Preceding her in death were her grandparents, William “Bill” and Agnes “Jackie” Johnson, and Francis and Donna Hassler.
A memorial service will be in Bayfield, Colo., Jan. 6 at 11 a.m. at Pine River Cemetery. Hood Mortuary is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Code Green, a national mental health resource for first responders or Path4EMS, which is Colorado specific.