Driving his truck on the rural roads of northeastern Washington gives Todd Krogh a lot of time to think.
Pair that with the constant reminders of his late 28-year-old son, Dylan, and Todd Krogh finds himself parking on the side of the road a lot more these days, trying to collect himself.
“I have a key chain that was the very first Christmas gift he ever gave me,” Todd Krogh said from his home near Newport earlier this month, holding back tears at the kitchen table with his family. “It said, ‘No. 1 Dad,’ and I’ve had that, probably, since he was 4 or 5 going to the NorthTown Mall.
“I don’t start my truck without seeing that and thinking about him.”
The wound is still fresh this Christmas, even though Dylan Krogh has been dead from a fentanyl overdose for almost two years. But Todd Krogh, and his family, continue to talk about Dylan Krogh and the dangers of the drug, holding an audience with newspaper and TV reporters, Newport High School students, a federal judge and more.
The family initially had some hesitancy about sharing the details of Dylan Krogh’s death. His sister, Mackenzie Pedersen, worried about people in the community judging her brother and her family.
“I even asked, ‘Do we have to put this on the death certificate?’ ” Pedersen said. “Because, you know, there’s a certain amount of shame around it.”
The family ultimately did begin talking about the fatal overdose, one of more than 71,000 nationwide that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed to synthetic opioids in 2021. Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Administration launched a concerted effort in Spokane to address the rise in fentanyl overdoses, which tripled in the county in 2021 compared with the year prior. The Kroghs also participated in an October event put on by the local nonprofit Spokane Alliance for Fentanyl Education after appearing in federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice at the sentencing of a man who sold their son fentanyl.
Todd Krogh said talking about the overdose has been difficult, but necessary, especially when visiting the school Dylan and his brother, Ben, attended.
“I could see emotion in everybody’s face,” Todd Krogh said. “And the truth is that I wouldn’t be opposed to going to some of the other schools and telling the same stories. They have a face of a parent that has to deal with this every day, and say, ‘Look, you don’t want your parents to be me.’ ”
There have been moments of gratitude in the past year, among residents who recognized the Kroghs from a newspaper story, a local TV story or their appearance on the national Fox News network in June.
“When we talked to the high school, I had to leave, because I had a golf practice or something like that,” said Ben Krogh said. “But my mom handed me a note from a student at the high school that just said, ‘Thank you for sharing your story, I’ve been through something like that as well.’ ”
Todd Krogh has been stopped in supermarket parking lots for advice on what to do for a loved one experimenting with drugs. One time, it was just a simple gesture from someone walking by that brought him to tears.
“There was a young gentleman, walking in front of Priest River (Lamanna) High School, and he looked up at me as I’m driving the truck,” Todd Krogh said. “And he pointed at me, and then he went like this,” he continued, patting his chest in a show of solidarity, “and then pointing back at me, a pretty simple gesture. He recognized the truck, and I knew what he meant.”
Christmastime is tough, with an empty seat at the table and an extra stocking bearing Dylan’s name. But the family has good memories, too, and the knowledge that his story could continue to make a difference in the lives of others in the Inland Northwest.
“We look like a pretty ordinary family, and this has impacted us immensely,” Pedersen said. “If somebody can see this can happen to Dylan, one of the strongest, most humble human beings we know, than anybody is susceptible to fentanyl.”
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