Havre Daily News
A Havre man who drowned last week was remembered this week by his former foster mother as a troubled young man who wanted desperately to be loved.
John Christian Haldemann III, drowned Aug. 16 in Bear Paw Lake in Beaver Creek Park. He would have turned 22 this week, on Monday.
Growing up, Haldemann bounced from one foster home to another, said Charlene "Bunnie" McAuley of Havre, who looked after him for two years at the Malta ranch McAuley ran with her husband.
Haldemann's brother, Dale, also lived with the McAuleys. This morning he said some of his favorite memories of his brother are the two of them playing basketball and fishing on the ranch.
Dale Haldemann described his brother as adventurous.
"He loved to be in the outdoors. He was big into sports. He loved to go hiking and explore the caves at Zortman," he said.
John Haldemann did not have an easy childhood, McAuley said. His youth was marked by abuse, run-ins with law enforcement and difficulty controlling his behavior due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia, she said.
But underneath he was more than that, she said, recalling a gentle young man with a quick smile.
Haldemann was always willing to help out on the ranch, whether it was doing dishes after dinner or going out in freezing weather to break ice on cattle troughs, McAuley said.
"Whenever there was work to be done, he was right there. We saw a different person than the police might have seen," she said.
"Drugs and alcohol were a big, big part of his demise," she added.
When Haldemann was a junior in high school, he was sent to the Yellowstone Youth Ranch in Billings. He garnered more confidence and, with the help of medication, was able to stabilize his personality and control his behavior, she said.
When he was on his medication, he gave friends and family a glimpse of a gentle and loving person, McAuley said.
"There was this extremely loving child," she said.
Haldemann lived with Havre resident William Wilson and his wife, Tina, on two occasions. The couple first met Haldemann when he was 18 or 19 years old, shortly after he was evicted from the house he was living in because he couldn't make rent, Wilson said.
After living with them for several months, Haldemann moved on, but recently returned to live with them, Wilson said. Haldemann also was working for a fast-food restaurant.
"He was a nice kid," Wilson said. "If ever anything needed done, he wasn't afraid to help me."
During their youth John and Dale Haldemann were in seven foster homes in two years, McAuley said. The brothers later told her of abuse they endured in one of the homes - being locked out of the house on freezing nights and having to huddle together in a dog house for warmth. In another home, McAuley said, the brothers were forced to steal food in order to feed themselves.
"You just think, 'You deserve better,'" McAuley said, adding that John was especially vulnerable.
"He wanted to be loved. More than anything, he wanted people to love him."
McAuley said she learned of Haldemann's death on the radio. She was able to tell Dale in person about his brother's death.
"I'm still taking it pretty hard," Dale said.
After learning of his death, McAuley penned a letter to her former foster son.
Written on his birthday, the letter recounted the good and bad parts of his life, and told him how much he will be missed by those who knew him best.
She wrote: "We'll miss your ready smile, your joy of companionship, your ability to forgive so easily, your funnish grin, accompanying mischief, your ready bear hug, your 'full steam ahead' approach to life."