Loved ones remember former assistant basketball coach, father and law firm partner Kyle Hegna as a sports and outdoors lover — and much more.
The 56-year-old Chaskan died in a snowmobile crash Jan. 18 in Aitkin County.
He touched the lives of everyone who knew him, said Hegna’s longtime friend Todd Daubenberger.
“He was the type of person that, if you met him, you became fast friends with him,” Daubenberger said. “He was just so easy to not only talk to but to strike up a fast relationship with meaning. He was so outgoing.”
The two met while studying at Gustavus Adolphus College and were best friends ever since. Their families were neighbors in Chaska and their children grew up in the same schools.
They would travel and visit Hegna’s cabin in Crosslake together, often conversing about their similar background in coaching youth sports.
Hegna was assistant basketball coach for Chaska High School and Holy Family Catholic High School from the time his daughters were young girls. He coached for summer youth leagues for many years until the 2015-16 season, turning his full attention to his law firm job where he’d been for about three decades.
Former players shared grief over the sudden loss. Daubenberger said a large group of girls from the basketball teams came to Hegna’s home the night he died.
“He had such an impact,” Daubenberger said.
Others shared similar sentiments, reflecting on their time with ‘Coach Kyle.’
“I look back on the memories I made playing basketball with a smile, and a lot of that is owed to Coach K.,” said former Chaska star basketball player Ellie Thompson.
Tara Seifert, the head coach of Chaska girls basketball, noted all the roles Hegna had, living a life beyond the court. He was her assistant for many years.
“It’s so incredibly sad. So heartbreaking for his family and friends,” Seifert wrote. “He was such a great person, coach, husband, father and friend.”
On top of the numerous off-court positions he played, he was a marathoner, and sometimes even rollerblader. Daubenberger said Hegna was an avid angler and hunter, enjoying lots of time at his Ossawinnamakee Lake property.
His former players remember his character, both as a coach and person.
“On and off the court, he always had a smile on his face,” Thompson said. “His energy was contagious and he truly loved helping us get better every day.”
Daubenberger said Hegna was invited to a former player’s wedding several months ago. Hegna messaged him one night about the experience:
“What they don’t realize is how much it meant to me. I was the lucky one. I would have paid to do it. Those memories are priceless,” stated his message.
Hegna studied geology in the 1980s at Gustavus before heading to Mitchell Hamline School of Law. From there, he co-founded law firm Wilkerson & Hegna, where he worked ever since.
Hegna met his wife, Patty, while in high school and their two daughters are now in their 20s, Daubenberger said. But the family lines were blurry.
“My two kids would always view Kyle and Patty as their second parents,” Daubenberger said.
Hegna’s circle didn’t stop there. He knew people outside the girls’ basketball team, stretching into other sports communities.
“The area athletes, the football team would know Kyle Hegna really, really well. He was so approachable and easy to get to know, and wanted to get to know you,” Daubenberger said.
He said his irresistible nature was just who he was.
“It was just kind of that larger-than-life kind of personality,” Daubenberger said. “Genuinely warm, caring, really wanted to understand and learn about you. And it was why so many people just gravitated toward him.”
Daubenberger said they’re making plans for a funeral service, and among other difficult things, one stands out in particular.
“When he has his service, one of the things we’re struggling with is where we can go that will be big enough,” he said, noting Hegna’s popularity in the community and beyond.
The crash was reported at 5:48 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18 at Highway 169 and 610th Street in Macville Township, a Minnesota State Patrol report stated.
Hegna was driving a Polaris Indy snowmobile across Highway 169, from the west ditch to the east ditch, according to the report. A Toyota Tundra, driven by Aaron Dwayne Lee Horner, 37, of Palisade, was traveling south on Highway 169. The vehicles collided in the southbound lane of the highway.
The road was covered with snow and ice, according to the report.
Hegna was transported to Grand Itasca Hospital in Grand Rapids with fatal injuries. Horner was not injured.
Horner was wearing a seatbelt and there was no alcohol involved, according to the Minnesota State Patrol report. Hegna was wearing a helmet and there was alcohol involved, the report stated. The case remains an open investigation, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
Mark W. Olson contributed to this report.