Before Steve Heitner died of cancer last year, he and his wife, Kathy, talked about taking a trip to Florida with their kids and grandchildren.
After he died, Kathy Heitner saved money and spent several weeks planning that trip, which was under way last week when a car crash killed Heitner and sent seven of her family members, all from Spokane, to a Tampa hospital.
Friends and family say Heitner’s generosity in paying for the trip was emblematic of her whole life.
“She was really a sweetheart,” said her brother Bob Marx. “She helped everybody.”
The group arrived in Florida on April 23 and spent a couple of days at Disney World. Last Tuesday, the family headed for Busch Gardens in Tampa but turned around because they forgot their tickets.
While headed back, witnesses reported, the family’s rented Ford Expedition, driven by Heitner, suddenly jerked, went into a spin and rolled, according to the Associated Press. The resulting crash killed Heitner, 54.
On Sunday, one family member remained hospitalized in Florida. Her son-in-law, David Cornell, 32, was listed in good condition. Heitner’s daughter, Sarah Cornell, 32, and her grandson, Jordan Reiner, 14, were released from the hospital Sunday.
Kathy and Steve Heitner were Department of Social and Health Services case managers who worked with people who receive welfare and other state benefits.
“Some people just go to work because it is their paycheck, but she went to work because she really cared about people,” said Kathy Heitner’s friend and co-worker Natalie Wellik. “She always thought of others before herself.”
Services for Kathy Heitner are pending.