Bayfield photographer’s fans share her grief after husband’s deathHannah Stonehouse Hudson gave the world a gift last year: a photo of friend John Unger lovingly cradling his elderly dog, Schoep, in the waters of Lake Superior. When Hudson’s husband died Jan. 26, it was the world’s turn to give back.
By: Molly Guthrey , St. Paul Pioneer Press
Hannah Stonehouse Hudson gave the world a gift last year: a photo of friend John Unger lovingly cradling his elderly dog, Schoep, in the waters of Lake Superior.
The picture by the Bayfield photographer became a worldwide sensation — spread on Facebook, featured in the News Tribune and then reprinted everywhere from Hong Kong to Reader’s Digest.
When Hudson’s husband died Jan. 26 after an accident on Lake Superior, it was the world’s turn to give back. From around the globe, the photographer’s fans have flooded her Facebook page with condolences, along with photos of their own dogs:
“You have touched thousands of us around the world with your images,” said one fan. “Now we hold out our hearts to you and cradle you in our collective soul to be with you at this time of loss in your life.”
Hudson is comforted by this gift of love — along with the memorial checks, cookies, poems, video montages and more.
“I think I have the best group of people to distract me — ever,” Hudson said. “They’re doing what they can to help a person they’ve never met. We all have a bond and a common denominator, and that’s loving our animals. That’s what is interesting about this group. They rely on their animals for solace, for love, to make them feel not alone, and now they’re doing that for me.”
Hudson was working from home a week ago when her neighbor, a police officer, knocked on her door.
He didn’t need to say anything.
“I knew,” she said. “I knew from his face that Jim had gone in.”
Her husband, Jim Hudson, a well-known fishing guide and former Bayfield police officer, was on a snowmobile when it broke through the ice in a channel near Madeline Island at about 1 p.m. He was in the water for more than 30 minutes before rescue crews were able to pull him from the lake.
“The officer who responded on Madeline Island is a good friend of ours,” Hudson said. “He told me they were doing CPR and that I should go immediately to the hospital in Ashland. So I went to Ashland and waited for an hour. When I went into the room, I unfortunately got to see him hooked up to a machine that was doing chest compressions, and he had tubes coming out everywhere.
“They told me to say goodbye. They put him on a medic helicopter to Duluth. Before I got there, I got the call that he was gone.”
In a way, it was a call Hudson had always been expecting.
“Jim had told me the entire time that we were together that he would die young and die fishing,” Hudson said. “He was right.”
Jim, 34, and Hannah, 35, first bonded over fishing.
“Within five minutes of meeting, Jim said, ‘You like to fish?’ His eyes got huge,” Hudson said, laughing. “We bought a boat together less than a month later. And it was not a cheap boat. It was a $30,000 fishing boat.”
The couple, who met in 2004 and married in 2005, supported each other’s dreams. For Hannah, that meant walking away from a career in insurance and instead building Stonehouse Photography, specializing in commercial and dog photography. For Jim, it was leaving a career in law enforcement to start a fishing business, Hudson’s On the Spot Guide Service.
She hopes people will see her husband’s death not as a tragedy but a reminder.
“I don’t look at this as ‘life is unfair,’ ” she said. “If I did, I’d be a very angry person. And I’m not, at all. I look at it as ‘life is unexpected.’ ... You need to live in the moment and be passionate and love those around you and realize that you can’t control everything.”
Life was unexpected in a good way last year, when Hudson’s photo of John Unger and his dog, Schoep, circled the globe.
Now, Unger and the small, close-knit community of Bayfield are grieving.
“We are all so sad,” Unger said in a statement. “Jim was a wonderful person, very well-liked and respected and truly devoted to Hannah. This is a huge loss for the whole community. We want to be here for Hannah and her family.”
This outpouring of love is why Hudson won’t delay in picking up her camera again after her husband’s funeral Sunday.
“That’s my way of showing love to the world,” she said. “My love for my husband needs to be translated, so that’s going to be through my camera. I showed love with that photo, and I’m going to keep doing that.”