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Cindy Lange-Kubick: The short, busy life of Addie Hestermann
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Cindy Lange-Kubick: The short, busy life of Addie Hestermann

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SYRACUSE -- The founder of Heartland Pet Sitting, named for the street where she lived with her mom and her dad, her two little brothers and two cats and Bailey the pug, died Monday.

"Dogs Rabbits Hamsters Lizards Fish Etc," Addison Hestermann, 9, wrote on the business cards she made.

"No cats or snakes, please."

Her grandpa was allergic to cats, Addie's mom Jamie explains Wednesday, standing in her daughter's yellow bedroom, where 2-year-old Tripp is hiding behind the curtains wearing Addie's pink cowboy boots.

Addie also ran a pet hospital in the basement playroom -- Isaac, 4, and Tripp assisted with the sick stuffed animals when possible.

The fourth-grader was president of The Furry Friends Club as well. "Mostly in charge," she wrote in her careful printing on club stationery.

Addie was diagnosed with leukemia March 20.

She would have turned 10 Wednesday.

For her birthday, the girl who loved animals had planned to have a sleepover.

No presents, please.

Instead, she wanted her friends to bring something from the Capital Humane Society's wish list -- pet food, bleach, dog treats, window cleaner, paper towels, blankets, batteries, kitty litter ...

And in the days before her funeral Thursday, they did.

* * *

Addie said her chest hurt.

She'd been fine earlier that day, playing softball in the front yard. Maybe it was her asthma acting up, Jamie thought.

But the breathing treatment didn't help, and Addie had a fever, too, so in the middle of the night they drove to the hospital in Lincoln.

Two days later, they followed up with a doctor's visit. Probably a virus, the doctors told Jamie each time.

But when the fever still was lingering four days later, Addie's dad took her to another doctor.

This time, they drew blood. And this time, the doctor called Scott Hestermann into his office.

"I knew it wasn't good when he put the box of Kleenex out."

Scott loaded Addie into the car for the drive to Children's Hospital in Omaha. They picked Jamie up from Eagle Elementary School, where she works as a media specialist.

A pink-cheeked fourth-grader at recess peeked into the truck.

Jamie looked in at her daughter, so pale, so sick.

"I knew it was dire."

On the hurried drive, Jamie kept looking back at Addie, strapped in her seat. It was like the day you bring your baby home from the hospital, she said.

The way a mother can't help turning around to make sure everything is OK.

* * *

The family moved to Heartland Drive, part of a small subdivision just north of Syracuse, when Addie was 8. They'd been living in Gretna, but Jamie and Scott -- a bank auditor -- both grew up in small towns, and this felt like home right away.

Especially to Addie. She found a group of girls at school and in the neighborhood.

She'd started her fledgling pet-sitting business there and made her first $20 babysitting for Grandma and Grandpa's rambunctious dog, Maggie.

She and her friends opened a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway, attracting neighbors and relatives on summer afternoons and weekends.

And Addie offered spa days, 10 cents for a massage, 10 cents for styling your hair, 50 cents for a package that included a foot massage and nails.

"We were good tippers," her mom said.

By the end of the year, Addie had $87 to deliver to the Humane Society in Lincoln.

This year's goal: $200.

She'd collected $2.11 in her black piggy bank before she got sick.

And on the day before her funeral, the day of her birthday, bags and boxes and totes appeared in ever growing piles at businesses and at Addie's school in Syracuse.

Pet food, bleach, dog treats, window cleaner, paper towels, blankets, batteries, kitty litter ...

In memory of a kind-hearted girl, a beloved daughter, a loving sister and a faithful friend to animals everywhere.

Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

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