Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt and her husband, Marshall Hitt, moved to a home east of Myrtle Creek surrounded by lots of trees five years ago. The two, who had been married since 1991, had plans of traveling and spending more time together when she retired.
That changed in an instant on a snowy Tuesday, Feb. 26, when a tree struck and killed Marshall — making him the only known storm-related death from last week’s snowstorm.
On top of heavy snow Sunday evening and Monday, a third wave of snow Tuesday proved too much for hundreds of trees around the county. The Hitt property in Myrtle Creek was no different, where trees were dropping like matchsticks.
On that snowy night, Patricia Hitt was at her nearby mother’s home with her sister, while Marshall Hitt, 70, remained at home. Once the power went out at her mother’s house, the decision was made to move everybody to a room reserved at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville.
As they prepared to move to the hotel, Marshall Hitt was getting ready to cut away a tree that had fallen on their driveway.
Patricia Hitt walked home from her nearby mother’s house to gather some needed items to take with them to Canyonville.
“As we were walking back down the driveway, a tree fell between me and my sister right behind Marshall’s pickup, and before we got to my mom’s house, another tree fell across the driveway and into a power line,” Patricia Hitt said.
She described the scene where branches and trees were falling all around them and along the driveway. While Marshall Hitt worked to clear a fallen tree, the rest of the family headed for Seven Feathers.
“We had to drive 10 miles an hour, the roads were so bad,” she said. “I talked to Marshall until I got to Myrtle Creek and he’d gotten one tree off the road and got his pickup up to the house, so he was going to take a break and sharpen his chain on his chainsaw and then go back and cut up the other one.”
She didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time she would ever speak with her husband.
When they got to Seven Feathers, hundreds of people were stranded and the freeway had just been closed. She described it as “utter chaos, and just crazy busy.”
As she, her mother, and sister Nancy Trueblood settled in at their room in Canyonville, Patricia Hitt thought she should check in back home.
“I tried to reach him and I sent a text that we made it, and then later that night, I thought, ‘I haven’t heard from Marshall, I better give him a call,’” she recalled. “I sent a text, but I decided he had no power, and the cell phone was probably dead, and he probably went to bed early, and I’ve tried to live my life not worrying about worst-case scenarios.”
The next morning, she got up and still had not received a call from her husband.
At the same time, her great nephew, who lives in Riddle, had gone to the Hitt home to help Marshall Hitt cut up the trees that had fallen. Upon his arrival, the great nephew made a tragic discovery.
They would later learn a tree behind Marshall Hitt uprooted and fell while he worked, hitting him. With the chainsaw running, he didn’t hear it falling.
“One minute he’s here and the next he’s in heaven,” Patricia Hitt said. “It happened so fast.”
A GoFundMe account was started to meet funeral expenses after the sudden and unexpected death of Marshall Hitt.