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Cynthia Ann (Pretasky) Heffner

May 2, 2019 | 17 comments

Cynthia Ann (Pretasky) Heffner was born on August 17th, 1955 to James Pretasky and Teresa (Theisen) Pretasky. We often talked of the pain she had from losing first her mother and then her father. She was very close to her parents and felt a deep hurt and loss. My mother had the opportunity to model to her children how one should treat their family and themselves when you lose a parent. She often said, “We all grieve differently and we each need to remember that”. We will mom. We will remember and respect each other.

Cindy loved all of her siblings.  She was the middle child of eleven children, Teresa Pretasky, Holmen, Daniel (Teresa) Pretasky, Tomahawk, Timothy (Becky) Pretasky, Floodwood MN, William (Diane) Pretasky, La Crosse, Steven (Angie) Pretasky, Cottage Grove MN, Nancy Miller, Lake Tomahawk, Sandra Tripp, La Crosse, Theodore (Anne) Pretasky, Colfax. She was preceded in death by her brothers, James and Joseph Pretasky; her nephew John Pretasky; and her loving parents, Jim and Teresa Pretasky.

She was a favorite aunt and cousin to many and cherished those relationships. She recently told me of a call she had with her brother Ted and how uplifting the call was “like a breath of spring air.” She said they talked of pain and challenges and Gods love and faith and how siblings have a special connection that is even more important after you lose your parents.

Cindy was a member of the Holmen High School Class of 1973, she received her Certified Nursing Certificate and became a respite and foster parent provider in 1985. The Governor of Wisconsin awarded her and her husband a Foster Parent of the year award TWO times. She was so deserving of that.

Cindy always wanted to be a mother, she had such a love and a gift for children. She became a mom with her then husband David Robert Smith in 1973 (Kimberly Smith Gorka) and again in 1979 (Jeffrey David Smith). She lost a son due to premature birth, Christopher. I am imagining her holding him in heaven singing bye a bye a baby to him as I write this.

Cindy married the love of her life, our hero, step father, foster father, adoptive father…Dad, Daniel John Heffner, on August 29th, 1987.

Their home was filled with the joy and love of God and many children, including over 100 foster children. Dan’s daughter Holli Heffner McKeegan, Kim, Jeff and the children that grew in their hearts and that they chose and raised together Carol, Micheal, Nathaniel, Brianna, Alexus and Raia Heffner. Raia was mom’s special helper and her good girl! Mom was so proud of you and loved you so much.

We all know her true pride and greatest achievement is her grandchildren, Alexander, Gabriel and Christian Gorka, Daniel Freeman, Isabelle, Elaina and Isla Smith, Masyn and Makade Heffner, Arthur and Emilia Beck, and Hazel Thewis.

She took such joy in being outdoors with the little ones’ gardening, planting, picking berries and ending the night with a campfire.  She got her gift of storytelling from her dad, we all will miss her stories! The grandchildren all loved their “Grandma Kitten” so much and will miss her always.

In 1989 Cindy was in a car accident and has experienced chronic illness, pain, surgeries, bone replacements and just plain bad luck. At one point Doctors traveled from Australia to try and understand and learn from her medical nightmare.

Through all of it she read her bible and prayed. She loved Jesus and she praised and rejoiced in him.

She battled and she tried. She fell and had a hip replacement three weeks ago and was home recovering very well from that. Recently her heart started having issues and during her nap on her last day with us it just stopped.

Her children cannot express the love of Dan and Cindy. They raised the bar high for us. Their love has affected so many. My mother’s love has affected so many. My mom was 63 and way too young to die.

So young that when she called the last two times I did not answer. I didn’t think her death was an option. All of us kids want you to know… it is not the “adult” mom you have today you cry for. It is the mom who taught you everything and tucked you in. The mom you wanted when you were hurt. It’s my mommy I want. Stay connected with yours. Take the five minutes and let her check in. You’re still her baby and she will always be your mommy. She might not call tomorrow. We all have so much we want to say to her now that we are the cliché.

Make the time to answer your phone and to call your mom.

We all love you so much mom, a bushel and a peck!

A service will be held on Friday, May 3, 2019 at 2 PM at Christ is Lord Free Lutheran Church, 1269 CTH PH, Onalaska with visitation being held from 12 PM to the time of the service.



  1. Beth Peterson

    A beautiful person, Inside and out.
    So many memories.
    Peace to you Cindy.
    And peace to all who are left with their tears, sorrow and blessed memories.
    Beth (Eggen) Peterson

    • Deborah Desautels

      I knew her son Jeff and daughter Kim through my nephew Wesley Landmeier it’s been years since I met them, I’ve loved them both for years and now I know why! May God give them peace! What a beautiful family she raised! My Deepest Sympathy

  2. Ethel Ouellette

    My heart goes out to you, Daniel, with sincere condolences. Life here is so swiftly gone, love lives on. Mrs. Ethel Ouellette.

    • Isabel. Sader

      We are so sorry to hear about your mom. We r sending our condolences to your family!! It sounds like your mom was a wonderful person. Our heart goes out to you.

  3. Derek Updike

    This is the most touching obituary I have ever read! Cindy was truly a gift to our world. She and her kind husband have successfully instilled love, kindness, and responsibility into the lives of their children. Thoughts and prayers to you all.

    • Kelly Stellpflug

      Such a beautiful obituary for Cindy. So sorry for your loss, but think of the peace she is feeling now…that’s got to be of some comfort to you. It would be so wonderful if each one of us would carry on even at least one of the many meaningful things she did in her life, to honor and remember her and help make the world a better place. 😊

  4. Jeri Harper (Mrs. Deninger/Miss Harper)

    My thoughts are with all of you. What a special woman to so many people. Cindy’s love for her children was evident whenever I talked with her. That love will live on in your family.

  5. Krista Duval

    Beautifully written obituary about your Mom. Thoughts are with you and your family. Sincere condolences,

  6. The Erlandsons

    Thinking of you and the whole Pretasky family

    • Anne Hein

      Lovely tribute of Cindy & the home she & Dan created & opened up for fostering children.
      I only saw Cindy with a smile on her face & me always forgetting about the pain she endured because of the smile I saw. Deepest Sympathies to All.

  7. Gwen Loveless

    What a lovely obituary, so sorry for the loss of Cindys death, sounds like she was a wonderful person. May she rest in peace . God Bless

  8. Sherry Theisen Bias

    Cindy was so special and we loved her so much. She was a shining light of goodness and grace and she influenced and guided so many
    with her kindness and unconditional love for everyone. Cindy’s mother, our Aunt Theresa, was a beautiful loving and caring woman and Cindy stepped into her shoes as a loved role model for family
    members and she will be missed by all who knew her and loved her, Our sincerest sympathy , thoughts and prayers for Cindy’s
    family and for her siblings and families. May she rest in peace.
    Sherry Bias, Jim and Jodie Bias

    • raiya heffner

      thank you I will miss her very much

  9. catherine lange

    WE have all lost a very special person who meant so much to us all. My heart grieves today for all of Cindy’s family and friends. She was a special person who created many happy memories of the time I spent with her growing up as well as in adulthood with both her and Dan. The sky now has an extra bright star to shine down on us all. My deep condolences to all!

  10. Carol Rumpel

    Our hearts go out to you and your family. Although I don’t know exactly what to say, as I’m sure your heart is aching. We want you to know that we are here for you if your need anything.

  11. Keith Ouellette


    So very sorry for your loss. Cindy and you were soulmates in every way. much love to you and your family now, and always. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Keith & Cheryl

  12. Sarah Klonowski

    Sounds like God gained an angel! So sorry for your loss, my prayers for you and all of your family.

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