Heidi Elizabeth was born on September 17, 1980, in Chicago, IL to Greg Girard and Kim Rottenfusser.
Heidi was named after the movie of the same name starring Shirley Temple. Like Shirley, Heidi was an adorably cute child with big blue eyes and deep dimples. Greg and Kim, who were only 21 and 18 years old when Heidi was born, moved into a 1-bedroom apartment in Chicago. Because finances were tight, Heidi’s first “crib” was the bottom drawer of a dresser. Although she didn’t come into this world with much, her German name actually means “noble.”
When Heidi was 2 years old, Krista was born. At the age of 5, Eva was born. Her parents loved to dress their three girls up in matching outfits to get our pictures taken. Christmas and Easter were especially big “to-do’s” with our matching dresses usually loaded with tons of ruffles that her father would diligently iron.
At the age of 8, Heidi’s parents divorced. Mom moved to Germany and Dad raised the girls as a single father in Chicago for the next five years. The divorce forced Heidi to grow up pretty quickly and take on the responsibility of caring for her sisters. With dad working full time, leaving early each morning to drive to Wisconsin for work, it became Heidi’s job to get Krista up and ready for school since Eva was only three at this time, Dad would drop Eva at Aunt Mickey’s on his way to work and she would care for me. When Eva was old enough to start school, Heidi became in charge of getting both my sister and I ready for school and safely walking us to and from school each day.
At the age of 10, Heidi gave her heart and soul to Jesus and was born again. She was devoted to her family, church, and school. The 3 sisters would often walk to the local park and hang out with our friends. They would ride their bikes for miles, rollerblade, and just be sisters together. Those were good times. We would go to our local church and rollerblade around it with our friends Monica and Teri Sutter whose dad was the pastor of the church. We also would spend hours with them making up dance moves to our favorite Christian songs.
Heidi was a straight-A honor student and she thrived in school. One of her most favorite subjects was art and she was skilled at drawing and painting. She even went on to win an art contest and several art awards in 8th grade.
When Heidi was 13, our father remarried and, simultaneously, Heidi, the teenager, emerged. The fact that “Ma” came into the picture meant that Heidi could go back to being a normal kid with normal responsibilities. But Heidi didn’t necessarily see it that way. She really liked being in charge and adjusting was not easy.
As most teenagers do, Heidi would often test her boundaries. She was not one to back down and for those familiar with the Girard strong spirit (which some may call stubbornness), Heidi was often at odds with our parents through those teenage years. It was a chess game that Krista and Eva watched from the sidelines and chuckled or sometimes cringed through.
Heidi turned to her friends a lot as a teenager. She attended Lane Tech High School in Chicago and she loved her time at Lane. She had lots of friends, was a cheerleader, and was very popular. One time when Heidi wanted to practice her cheerleading moves at home, she often enlisted the help of her two younger sisters - her built-in assistants.
At the end of her junior year of high school, our family moved to Homewood, IL. The move was great for everyone - everyone but Heidi, that is. Naturally, she didn’t want to attend her senior year at a new high school and leave her friends and her life in Chicago.
From 1997-1998, Heidi attended Homewood Flossmoor High School. Though Heidi was opposed to the move, she ended up meeting many of her friends in Homewood. In fact, Homewood is where Heidi developed her love of coffee while working as a barista at Starbucks. Her job at Starbucks introduced her to 2 young women, Jamie and Katie, who would become her lifelong friends. It was through these friends and their mutual friend groups that Heidi met her husband Jim.
It was around 1999 and she was working at our local Starbucks which Jim went to very often to get a fill of Frappuccino's. he was instantly drawn to her dimples and infectious smile. They had mutual friends so they began to spend time together and quickly grew an interest in each other. Heidi’s personality and work ethic were also attractive to him. When we would hang out with their friends, they would be out until late at night and she would have to be at work to open at 5 AM the next morning. It was never a problem for her. She never complained and always took pride in her responsibilities. We shared a love of the band Phish and attended a couple of concerts together. This is even where our first two children’s names came from as Trey and Paige are band members of Phish. It’s also what inspired a couple of Heidi’s tattoos.
When Heidi got pregnant with Trey in 2001, she decided to move to Germany to have the health care benefits and family support from her mother who lived there. While Heidi lived in Germany, Jim and Heidi wrote to each other often. They wrote letters back and forth. It was around this time that Jim decided to talk to a recruiter about joining the Air Force. Meanwhile, after about a year in Germany, Heidi decided to move back home to the Chicago area. When Jim left for basic training, Heidi and Jim were still corresponding by letters and when I finished with training we would spend hours talking on the phone. While I was stationed at Ft. Eustis in Virginia, I would often make the 12-hour drive to Chicago to come to visit Heidi. At this time she was working as a babysitter while also taking care of Trey.
When Jim completed technical school and was on my way to be stationed in Tucson, AZ they were married in a small ceremony at the courthouse near their hometown on February 5th, 2003 A week later, they set off for Tucson with nothing to our name but Heidi’s 1990 Toyota Corolla and a small Uhaul with some of our personal items. Heidi was attached to that car as she was to many of her vehicles. It was a long, 36-hour drive in February through snowy and icy conditions. Jim wanted to stop but Heidi refused to stop so they trudged right through it. The first real test of marriage right off the bat. Also during this long, gruesome drive that Heidi drove over an ice-covered bridge, and the Uhaul was swerving back and forth. Jim thought for sure we were going to crash but Heidi handled it like a champ.
They lived in an apartment in our first year in Tucson. They got acclimated to the area by doing a lot of hiking at Mt. Lemmon, Sabino Canyon, and Sedona. They even took Trey on his first camping trip. Through the use of the VA loan, they were able to purchase our first home in February of 2004. Jim can vividly remember carrying Heidi through the threshold of our new home. They spent a lot of time getting to know our neighbors and many of the Air Force members and their families.
Heidi was working at a daycare on the east side of Tucson and her hard work eventually got her the role of Assistant Director. Heidi would bring Trey with her to the daycare so she could also care for him while maintaining her duties at work. Heidi always had a love for children and caring for their needs. While working at the daycare, Heidi decided she wanted to pursue her massage therapy license so she attended Apollo College while maintaining her full-time job at the daycare. She would do 8 hours of work, 4 hours at school, and then come home to take care of the house and Trey all while Jim was gone, deployed in Iraq. She finished her massage therapy school in about 5 months.
When Jim returned from my Iraq deployment, they conceived Paige. While Heidi was pregnant with Paige, she began working in massage. She built her clientele from the ground up and prided herself on being able to truly help the people who could benefit from her touch.
In 2008, they began to go to church on a regular basis and Heidi immediately became involved with the nursery. Heidi was always drawn to help. Though we liked the church, we didn’t feel attached to it. One day as we were driving in our neighborhood, we saw a group of people handing out water bottles with a new Church name on them. They decided to attend, and instantly knew they had come to the place where they were meant to be. Heidi got plugged into the children’s ministry right away. When Heidi was teaching those 3–5-year-olds, you could tell she was in her element. She was born to be a leader and teacher. She always knew what to say and you could see the joy it brought her to be involved in these children’s lives.
In 2011 Aspyn was born. She rounded out the family and was a beautiful addition to the crew. The Rock Church children’s pastor moved away and Heidi was asked to take the role. She accepted the challenge wholeheartedly with determination and passion. She drove to training sessions and learned so much that she was able to take her knowledge and train other children ministry leaders.
Heidi was so passionate about everything she did. If she was going to do it, she was going to give it 110%. Heidi loved being a mom and a teacher, so much so that in 2013 we received our AZ State License to foster children. Heidi had a lot of love to share and what better way to do that than by sharing our home and our faith with children that have been through tremendous difficulties. They fostered children from 2013-2017. It was not always wonderful though. It was challenging and difficult at times, but it brought them closer together as a family. They were able to share our family adventures with children who would not have normally been able to enjoy such fun. They would take the whole family to the lake or go camping. They even took a couple of the kids on snowboarding trips. Yet Heidi was also an avid snowboarder!! Even those fun trips were not always easy. There was one time on a camping trip that Heidi had to stay back in the tent with one of the foster children and hold her to keep her from having temper tantrums. Heidi’s patience and love were inexhaustible.
They camped often at the lakes, as often as they could. Their favorite place to be was on the river. They usually would make it out there twice a year for 5 days at a time. For Heidi, riding up at the bow of the boat and us cruising down the river was her happy place. No cares in the world all worries gone and our family all together enjoying what they all loved to do. Heidi joined the men often on our morning wakeboard runs. She liked to hit the water precisely when the mountain’s surroundings mirrored off it t and the water was so still you could cut out of the wake and see the bottom of the river bed. She was no stranger to being the boat captain either. There were times when she and the ladies went out for a cruise without the kids, and I have heard from all the teenagers that her tube rides were rather intense. .
In 2017, they moved into their current home to allow space for more foster children. Around this time was when Heidi started to notice some abnormalities and decided to go to the doctor. When they found out about the cervical cancer, surgery was scheduled to remove the cancer. However, upon investigation, it was determined that chemo and radiation were necessary. Heidi endured an intense 10-week round of radiation treatment for 5 days a week. Then on Thursdays, she would have her chemo treatment. By late fall of 2018, Heidi was deemed cancer-free.
We were hopeful that life would return to normal again but in the summer of 2019 some abnormalities were once again discovered and the follow-up doctor visit confirmed the return of the cancer. Heidi underwent heavy doses of chemotherapy and even miraculously qualified for immunotherapy. At first, the immunotherapy treatments went well, making Heidi much less sick than the chemo and bringing some of her cancer numbers down. Throughout all of the treatments, Heidi never complained. She participated in everything she could. She attended Trey’s football games, she brought Paige and Aspyn to their dance classes and recitals, she spent hours planning and teaching for children’s ministry, she even continued to do her massages. Heidi always took care of everyone else, she didn’t want anyone to worry about her.
She was deemed terminal on Jan. 6th, 2021, and placed on-at-home hospice. Even then her faith in her Lord Jesus Christ never stumbled. She took every day in stride and continued to serve. Jim was able to take a large amount of time off from work so that they may spend time together and due to covid the kids were home a lot too. She always had faith in her healing and led prayer meetings and children’s ministry until 3 weeks before her passing. Even when she went into in-patient hospice, she had the mindset of going to get well with the intention of returning home after her visit. Heidi was taken home to be with our Lord on July 8th, 2021.