Young man’s legacy of connection lives on through organ donation

Carter Herne, 25, renewed his organ donor registration only a week prior to the tragic motorcycle accident that took his life. His family honored his donation decision, and he left Earth a hero, saving five lives through the donation of his heart, liver, lungs and kidneys.

Carter Herne, 25, from Bozeman, Mont.

“Even though we never thought this would happen to us, everyone in our family is proud to be a registered organ donor,” says Sonja Herne, Carter’s mom. “This huge impact that Carter has on others — and continues to have — is part of his purpose. It’s what he wanted.”

Carter is one of the 38 Montana organ donors whose collective gifts saved 70 people last year. They were honored by Gov. Greg Gianforte and Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras in a private ceremony for their families on April 19 at the Helena Regional Airport. The families received a Gift of Life Award signed by the governor, acknowledging the life-saving gifts of their loved ones.

Nature captivated Carter.
Carter adored his family. He’s photographed here with his three siblings.

Carter’s family shares that he focused on joy in the present rather than chasing happiness. He connected easily with people and developed deep, strong bonds with those he loved. Carter was also tenacious. He had a tattoo that read “Work Harder,” which was a source of gentle teasing from his dad, Chris Herne. But to Carter, it meant grit and perseverance. This motto is evident in Carter’s work as a carpenter and home builder. He had a passion for incorporating reclaimed wood into new homes, marrying modern lines with a piece of history and a reverence for the outdoors.

“I can tell you on my darkest days, those were the days that I received letters from my son’s recipients,” shares Chris. “I took it as a gift from God to be happy that someone else’s pain was erased because of Carter. I look forward to meeting all of them someday.”

April is National Donate Life Month. You can make a difference by joining the organ, eye, and tissue donor registry and sharing this decision with your family.

See photos from the Governor’s Gift of Life Award Ceremony.