In Memoriam: John David Halfen

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It is with great sadness that our family lost our beloved leader, partner and role model, John David Halfen. John passed away in Tucson, Arizona from complications related to a long battle with a rare muscle disease. John was born May 12, 1945 in New Orleans to Loraine and David Halfen. Born in Louisiana but raised in Colorado, John was a loyal Denver Broncos fan. Along with football, John enjoyed watching the New York Yankees play baseball. In his younger years he enjoyed duck hunting, was an avid golfer and reader, but in later years, nothing could compare to taking his boat out and fishing the beautiful lakes of Inyo and Mono Counties.

As a dear friend said, “I always felt like there were a lot of layers to John.” There is so much truth in that statement. John was the oldest of 7 children, served in the Vietnam War, piloted his own plane, loved poker, was a Colorado University graduate (Go Buffaloes!), was father to 5 children, grandfather to 2 grandchildren who nicknamed him “Disneyland Grandpa,” managed hospital systems – large and small — took country swing dance lessons, camped, fished, and had a dry sense of humor that people often missed if they weren’t paying attention.

October 2001, John was hired to be the Chief Financial Officer for Northern Inyo Hospital. Several months before interviewing and being hired for that position, John’s wife Jara asked him to “Go find Mayberry for us.” And that he did … Soon after coming to NIH, John was offered the position of Chief Executive Officer upon the retirement of Herman Spencer. The Halfen family would spend the next 14 years as part of the most loving and supportive community that they could have hoped for – they found their Mayberry. John’s most visible and lasting accomplishment is the Northern Inyo Hospital (District) Campus. Under his leadership, the hospital district was able to successfully pass a General Obligation Bond and build the new healthcare facility that met the California seismic requirements for an inpatient facility. He also successfully recruited many physicians and started a Hospitalist program. John made major progress in the healthcare district while maintaining good relationships with physicians, employees, and the community including the Bishop Rotary Club. Thanks to John’s know-how, persistence, and fiscal acumen, the beautiful new hospital was built. Few have given so meaningful and tangible a gift to a whole community.

John is survived by his wife, Jara; children Austin, Alexandra, Garth, Nicole (Gooch), Barron, and their mother, Tana Halfen; along with two grandchildren, Zane and Evangeline Gooch. He is also survived by his siblings, Mary, David, Suzanne, Katie, Holly, and Amy.

John will be coming home to Bishop and there will be a graveside service at the Pioneer Cemetery (West Line St.) on Saturday, September 24 at 11 a.m. Those who have memories to share or would like to honor John are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to either of John’s favorite charities: Wounded Warrior Project and Smile Train.

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