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Remembering a family after a tragic accident
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Remembering a family after a tragic accident

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Heidi Lykens-Huisman always wanted to be a mother.

Early in life, she was told she’d never be able to have children.

So the Fremont woman was excited when learning she was pregnant with her son, Jaymasin.

“He was her miracle baby,” said her sister, Kristina Ham of Laporte, Colorado.

Years passed and Lykens-Huisman and her husband, Joshua Huisman, also became parents of a little girl they named, Nova.

The family was together when the car they were in collided head-on with a semitrailer truck on Thursday, southeast of Scribner.

Following a preliminary investigation, the Nebraska State Patrol believed that the southbound sedan attempted to pass another vehicle on the two-lane portion of U.S. Highway 275, lost control and struck the northbound semi.

The tragic accident claimed the family’s lives. Lykes-Huisman was 37 and her spouse was 29. Jaymasin was 10 years old and Nova was 9 months old.

Now as they grieve the loss of their loved ones, family members have tender memories of:

A red-haired girl in pink pajamas, who loved "The Little Mermaid."

A young man, who loved to cook and wanted to be an artist.

A little boy with his mother’s free-spirited nature and his baby sister, who had chubby, little cheeks.

Along with these remembrances, family members tell how grateful they are for the outpouring of community support, their heartfelt thanks for heroic first-responders, and gentle concern for the truck driver.

Family friend Jonné Arnold coordinated a community candlelight vigil on Monday night at Clemmons Park in Fremont.

Kristina Ham has started a GoFundMe page at https://gofund.me/4282baac to help pay for the funeral costs of her sister and family.

During the weekend, family members shared warm recollections of the Huismans and their children.

Fremonter Jennifer Harrison remembers the royal entrance her niece, Heidi, made into the world.

In 1984, Harrison and her sister, Dawn Lykens, were in San Diego. Their parents had taken them out for Mother’s Day breakfast at a restaurant with a medieval castle theme and velvet thrones for seats.

They were having brunch when Lykens, who was pregnant, realized she needed to go to the hospital quickly. She was rushed to the hospital and Heidi was born the next day.

“It was a super, exciting entrance,” Harrison said.

Heidi and her family went to Norfolk, Virginia, where her dad, who was in the U.S. Navy, was stationed.

Growing up, Heidi loved Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” She had red hair like the mermaid in the movie.

Heidi loved to sing and realized she had an audience when Harrison and a friend paid a visit.

“She came down in her pink-footed pajamas and her red hair flowing down her back and earnestly, from her heart, sang, ‘Part of Your World,’ from ‘The Little Mermaid,’” Harrison said. “My friend — to this day — remembers that.”

Harrison also treasures a photograph from her wedding day. Heidi was her flower girl.

Heidi’s mom used to call her “Mookie Marie.”

“My sister, Jacci, and I always called her, the 'Pokey Little Puppy,’” Kristina Ham said, “because walking to school in the mornings she was always so slow and it always took her forever to get ready for school.”

When Heidi’s parents divorced, her mom and the children moved to Fremont to be closer to their mother’s parents, the late David and Jacqueline Moore.

The “pokey puppy” became a social butterfly.

Heidi’s sister, Jacci Shafer of Fremont, recalls her sibling’s gregarious personality.

“She was a very hyper kid, very outgoing and just very active and very funny,” Shafer said. “She’s always been like a free spirit. I think she’s always been really comfortable with who she is and she wasn’t afraid of anything really — just always free.”

Heidi’s sisters and aunt said she was funny and had a great sense of humor.

When he was growing up, Josh Huisman enjoyed sports, said his aunt, Sandy Liekhus of Fremont.

“He always played baseball in the summer,” Liekhus said. “He enjoyed swimming.”

When he was little, he liked baseball cards. When he was older, Huisman liked Pokemon cards, an interest he’d later share with his stepson.

Huisman enjoyed drawing and wanted to be an artist. He went to school in Cedar Bluffs, where he played football and basketball and was in track.

He’d tell his aunt he didn’t think he wasn’t so good at drawing or sports, but he enjoyed these activities.

“I told him that was all that mattered,” Liekhus said.

Liekhus recalled that Huisman had some struggles with learning, but had a good memory and asked lots of questions. He was very inquisitive.

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Huisman loved gardening with his grandpa, George Blum.

“They spent a lot of time gardening,” Liekhus said. “My dad was an old farmer.”

And Huisman asked his granddad lots of questions.

Huisman had other interests, too.

“Josh loved to cook. He loved to grill. The first dish he ever made was macaroni and cheese at my house,” Liekhus said, adding, “He loved trying new recipes.”

Liekhus babysat Huisman in his younger years.

“I loved his heart,” she said. “He was very kind-hearted. Every time he came around family and somebody that he cared for he was always giving a hug.”

Huisman graduated from Cedar Bluffs High School in 2010.

Liekhus said she thinks Heidi and Josh met through mutual friends.

Both worked at Walmart for a while. He’d worked at McDonalds and was last working at Burger King.

Huisman was a hard worker, Liekhus said.

Harrison said she learned Huisman was working at one of the Burger King restaurants in Fremont, but jumped in to help when someone was needed to work a shift at the other BK in town.

Heidi had worked at Dollar General on 23rd Street in Fremont before being a stay-at-home mom.

Harrison remembers seeing her niece at the store and they talked about Heidi’s mother, Dawn Lykens Leeper, who died in 2019.

“She’s the one who taught me how to smile in the face of adversity,” Heidi said of her mom.

Harrison would agree.

“If I could think of anything that would sum up who Heidi was — it was that quote,” Harrison said. “That’s Heidi in a nutshell.”

Besides her mother’s death, Heidi also lost her brother, Ryan Lykens, with whom she’d had a close bond. He died in 2020.

Ham said she was older than Heidi and had moved away. They drifted apart and she regrets that they didn’t have a closer relationship. They’d had a falling out, but made up at their mother’s funeral, Ham said.

“Don’t take anybody for granted,” Ham added. “If you have a grudge with somebody — especially your blood — don’t let it fester and boil and drive you apart. Really embrace everybody you have.”

Shafer recalls a special talk she had with Heidi.

“I always remember a time when we sat and had our really long, heart-to-heart (talk), because we hadn’t always gotten along,” Shafer said. “We sat and talked about everything and that meant a lot to me.”

Liekhus said her nephew would want to be remembered as a good dad.

Ham and Shafer believe their sister would want to be remembered as a good mother.

Because she’d been born with only one kidney, Heidi had been told she’d never be able to have children and family members were concerned about her high-risk pregnancies.

But Heidi was so excited to be a mom. Shafer said her sister made sure Jaymasin had good manners and dressed nicely.

Jaymasin was a good kid and funny and had a free spirit like his mother, Shafer said.

Harrison described Nova as adorable with big eyes and chubby cheeks.

She finds it fitting that the baby was named for a bright star that shines briefly.

“Her beauty was with us for just a short time,” Harrison said.

Ham and Harrison expressed tender concern for the truck driver in the accident.

“I feel such sympathy and heartache for the truck driver involved in this as well,” said Ham, whose husband, Corey Noll, is also a truck driver. “He’s going to have to go the rest of his life with this accident in his mind.”

Ham encourages drivers to be careful on the roadways and she and Harrison said the accident wasn’t the truck driver’s fault.

“I don’t blame him at all,” Harrison said. “It was a terrible accident.”

Harrison thinks about the weight he must carry.

As she struggles to comprehend the depth of the loss, Harrison expresses compassion for first-responders, paramedics, doctors and nurses who worked with the accident victims.

“I owe them a debt of gratitude,” Harrison said. “I know there was nothing that could be done to save them, but the fact that they were there, they tried, and they had to endure, this was heroic. I can’t even imagine.”

Family members expressed gratitude for the community support.

“I’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everybody in the community,” Harrison said. “It’s been amazing — the outpouring of love, prayers, food, donations. It has left us speechless and so grateful.”

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