Amber Chanti Hayward, Greeley, Colorado, had the most brilliant blue-eyed smile, but on January 16, 2018, at the young age of 46, that sparkle suddenly went out.
Amber was born on November 16, 1971 in Denver, Colorado to Roberta (Bobbi) M. Hayward and Robert (Bob) J. Hayward. She was preceded in death by both parents, and is survived by sister Josi B. Hayward of Fort Collins, CO, grandmother Fern Hayward of Idaho Falls, ID, uncles, aunts, friends, and her beloved canine companion, Cushla.
Her life was full of changes and challenges. After her father finished his medical residency, the family moved to Helena, Montana, but he was killed tragically in a car accident when Amber was just 11.
Raised by a single mom along with her sister, the family eventually moved back to Colorado. She spent her high school senior year living with her uncle Bruce and his family (Lisa, Robert & Madison Hayward) in Elizabeth, CO.
Since memories keep our loved ones alive in our hearts, Amber’s friends and family have shared some stories about Amber that will bring a tear, a smile or even a laugh to your day.
When she was born, her dad was just starting medical school and her grandparents and uncles often went to Denver to help the family out. During the summer months, Bob would come out to Deer Trail, Colorado to work on the family farm, or to harvest grain for the neighbors, so Amber was always a part of the larger Hayward family, especially as a child.
On those nights when Bob, Bobbi and Amber stayed overnight on the farm, Bob was the one who put her to bed every night in the room next door. In the middle of the night Grandma Fern would hear little feet coming, followed by a small voice saying, “Grandma, my scared.” Fern would move over, and little Amber would crawl into bed with them, and they’d all go back to sleep. Fern, of course, never did tell Amber’s parents. She knew that Bob would have told Amber to stop going into her grandparents’ room, so it stayed their little secret.
Amber had six uncles when she was little, and was only a few years younger than her uncle Greg, so all the boys had a great time teasing her like a little sister. The boys used to chase her with rubber alligators and snakes, and she’d always go crying to her Grandma Fern, but Fern would call her a little “pill” for tattling on them because she was sure that Amber had brought it on herself, even as a small child. (Her uncle Rod says fondly that, because she was little but feisty, she was “an easy mark.”)
When she was older, though, she laughed about how she enjoyed them teasing her. Even as Amber got older, she’d tell her friends how Grandma Fern called her a pill. If someone asked why, she said it was because she was “hard to take," (like all pills) because of her stubbornness.
When Amber was about 5, her 12-year old uncle Joel was digging around through some clothes and found a fancy green dress, probably his sister’s. He thought it’d be funny to put it on and show Amber and Bobbi. Bobbi suggested Joel put on Amber’s green beaded bracelet to “complete the ensemble,” but the bracelet was tiny, and as he attempted to put it on, it broke, spilling all the beads onto the ground. Amber was devastated and couldn’t stop crying. As they all grew up, though, it became a ritual for Amber when saying goodbye to Joel to always say, “Don’t forget, you still me a green bracelet!” (She even made sure to mention it the last time they were together.)
In her adult life, Amber began waitressing and tending bar because she loved to cook and loved being around fun people. Soups were her specialty, including spicy chicken noodle, French onion, and clam chowder (but no other form of fish!). She also loved everything about opening a restaurant- from coming up with the name, creating the menu, developing specialty drinks and finding the perfect décor. Having her own restaurant was her life’s dream, and it would have been a perfect fit for her as she’d mastered the command of running restaurants and was, indeed, a superb bartender. (She also disliked being told what to do and always wanted to be the one in charge!)
Amber had a long-time relationship with Kirk Page and they loved their West Greeley neighborhood, becoming close friends with long-time, next-door neighbors Cori & Dean Barrere. She always said she didn't want children and in fact, “hated” them, but became truly like an “aunt” to all of the Barrere children: Trish, Brittney, Jena, and Bree, and their grandchildren Bailey, Nova, Liam and Easton. Bailey was especially the light of her life.
She was very handy (having worked in construction before getting into the restaurant business) and during the remodel of her home performed most of the work herself. But there were a couple of incidents that caused some consternation. One time she was cleaning the carpet and went over to the Barrere’s house complaining of dizziness. She’d mixed ammonia and bleach together and they informed her that she had made something akin to mustard gas!
Soon after putting in her new flooring, she called the neighbors again, saying very calmly that she needed Cori to come over for a minute. When Cori arrived, she found that Amber had spilled a whole can of paint across her brand-new flooring. They spent the rest of the evening sopping up wet paint and getting the grooves cleaned with Q-tips!
Animals filled Kirk and Amber’s home; at one time they had 3 dogs, 7 cats, 2 fish tanks, a chinchilla, and snapping turtles. She was sad when the Barerres moved away because she always felt that she could go to them for anything and everything, but when she saw all the farmyard animals they had at their new home, she loved it and visited often. She loved animals of all kinds (except for snakes) and was an avid contributor to animal causes. She used to say that to love an animal, especially dogs, was to “wear” them.
She and Cori’s dad had a close relationship. She always looked forward to seeing him on holidays and he always looked forward to seeing his "tree sap." She called him Charlie when he wouldn’t allow anyone else to call him that...it was Charles to everyone else. When he passed away, Amber took in his two cats and fostered them until they could go to live with the Barerres and their two dogs.
Cushla was her last furry companion, his name meaning “the pulse of my heart.” Someone once told her that the name Cushla was for a girl, yet Amber’s Cushla was male. Amber responded, “He doesn’t know any different that he has a girl’s name.”
Kirk and Amber were very athletic together, playing golf and softball. She loved going back to Kentucky to visit, working on Kirk’s family cabin and fishing. Amber didn’t like guns or hunting but did appreciate fresh game when it was offered.
Rhonda Beitzel, another long-time friend, first met Amber many years ago when she was hired to be the bar manager for a restaurant in downtown Greeley. They shared a love of cooking and animals, making soups together and having puppy playdates, even taking their dogs, Cushla and Neah, to swimming lessons at an indoor pool, and to farmers’ markets. Here’s a quote that Rhonda once gave Amber: “It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all of the components of my heart will be dog and I will become as generous and loving as they are." -Anonymous. (She took a piece of my heart and I will miss her- Rhonda Beitzel)
A couple years ago, Amber decided to take a vacation from her job (where apparently, she was working 7 days a week for a couple years straight!) and flew to Seattle to visit her uncle Rod and aunt Cyndee. Cyndee was in school every day, and Rod was working, so he gave her his truck keys and told her to have fun - just relax, drive around and see the sights. But instead of relaxing, every day when Rod got home, he found her cleaning something in the house. One day she had completely cleaned out the refrigerator (which was probably the first time EVER). He’d ask why, and Amber would just say, “IF YOU HAVE TIME TO LEAN, YOU HAVE TIME TO CLEAN.”
More recently Amber spent much of her free time with another close friend, Tami Anderson of Greeley, and their energetic canine companions. Many summer days were spent boating on Horsetooth Reservoir and watching the dogs swim together. Tami loved Chris Janson’s song “Buy me a Boat,” and would usually play it on the drive home back to Greeley. Even though Amber hated that song, she ended up singing along, every time.
She was practically computer illiterate and hated technology, yet she always had the latest iPhone and did a lot of her shopping online.
Her favorite piece of clothing was a red two-piece swimsuit she bought when she was in her early 20s. She wore that suit for more than 20 years!
Every night she slept with the pink afghan that her grandma Fern made for her.
Amber loved people, and whenever she found out something sad, she cried – even if she didn’t know them. She’d also smile and cry at the same time whenever she talked about the love she had for her father and how much she missed him. So, if you should be thinking of Amber and start feeling sad, remember her sparkle and spunk, and her deep love for family, friends and furry creatures. Be sure to laugh along with her through your tears.