Remembering Sandy Heidtke's strength, warmth

January 31, 2014
3,528

The weather was unusually chilly for early October in Mississippi. A steady rain made it feel even colder in The Grove.

Some of those who traveled with TexAgs to the Texas A&M-Ole Miss football game in 2012 were prepared for the elements, but not all.

As we shivered under a tent, watching another college football game on a television that was set up for our tailgate party, a blonde pixie of a woman sat regally nearby with arms crossed.

She was obviously cold — she had no overcoat — but she wasn’t complaining. She was just enjoying the game, the food and the moment.

Finally, a man in the group — me — offered her a leather jacket.

“Oh no,” she said with a neon smile. “I don’t want you to be cold.” I assured her I was fine. Satisfied that I would indeed be kept warm, she flashed a broader smile, accepted the jacket and extended her hand. “Thank you,” she said. “My name is Sandy Heidtke.” {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"right","Quote":"“Oh no,” she said with a neon smile. “I don’t want you to be cold.” I assured her I was fine. Satisfied that I would indeed be kept warm, she flashed a broader smile, accepted the jacket and extended her hand. “Thank you,” she said. “My name is Sandy Heidtke.”","Author":""}
“Oh no,” she said with a neon smile. “I don’t want you to be cold.”

I’d just been taught that in a situation like that I should offer my coat to a lady. I assured her I was fine. I had a warm sweater on underneath and soon would be heading to the heated press box.

Satisfied that I would indeed be kept warm, she flashed a broader smile, accepted the jacket and extended her hand.

“Thank you,” she said. “My name is Sandy Heidtke.”

Until then I did not know her name. I did not know she was the wife of Jon Heidtke, a Fox Sports executive. I had no idea she had a son, Heath, who was a student at Texas A&M, and twins Hunter and Hannah, who soon will be.

And I did not know she was a cancer patient.

Of course, no one would have known because the constant smile she wore and the grace with which she carried herself hid any indication that she was ill.

Just four months before she’d been diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma and was enduring cancer treatments. Yet, she was still having fun following the Aggies, which she had done since she was a student at A&M Consolidated High School before attending A&M.

And she still was too concerned about the well-being of others to accept the offer of a jacket on a cold day.

Those who knew her best wouldn’t be surprised. She was the rare individual who could make a lasting impression on those who barely knew her.

“She just had a big, big, big heart,” said Twelfth Man Magazine Associate Editor Rusty Burson, a long-time friend. “She always thought of others.  I knew her for 17 years, but it felt like I knew her for 30 years or more because she was so easy to love, so outgoing and constantly thinking of others.”

I did not have the privilege of getting to know Sandy well. Yet, after our meeting in Oxford she would give a warm welcome whenever our paths crossed. Later, she met my wife on another TexAgs trip to Alabama. After a few minutes they were talking and laughing like they had been old friends forever.

She loved sports and she loved competing. She had that competitive nature. She’d say, ‘Cancer may take my life eventually, but I’m not giving up.’ That was one of the things I loved about her.” - Rusty Burson {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"She loved sports and she loved competing. She had that competitive nature. She’d say, ‘Cancer may take my life eventually, but I’m not giving up.’ That was one of the things I loved about her.”","Author":"Rusty Burson"}
She had that effect on people. Some people “never met a stranger.” It seemed Sandy Heidtke never met someone she didn’t like.

On the flight home from Birmingham I found myself sitting next to Sandy. She wanted to talk and relive the Aggies’ amazing 29-24 victory over Alabama. During our conversation I admitted being unaware of her illness, but expressed great admiration for her and her attitude.

I had watched my father-in-law succumb to cancer. I lost a grandmother to it. Dear friends were lost, too. I saw my sister-in-law endure a long, painful and — thankfully, successful — fight with it. I’d seen up close the toll that insidious disease can take.

Yet, the incredible spirit and grace Sandy Heidtke demonstrated in her ordeal was astonishing.

She told me that once Jon — like a good husband would — wondered why it couldn’t have been him that was stricken with the disease rather than her. She said it was because her personality was more suited for that fight.

She was probably right.

“She loved sports and she loved competing,” Burson said. “She had that competitive nature. She’d say, ‘Cancer may take my life eventually, but I’m not giving up.’ That was one of the things I loved about her.”

She fought that fight with dignity and grace until last Tuesday when she could not fight anymore. Sandy, who loved her family, loved the Aggies and seemed to love everyone around her, will be laid to rest in the Aggie Field of Honor near Easterwood Airport on Friday afternoon. She was 51.

Texas A&M has produced dozens of professional football players, professional basketball players and Olympians.

But no Aggie was ever stronger than Sandy Heidtke.
Tags: Texas A&M
 
×
Verify your student status
See Membership Benefits >