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Mulvane teenager dies before returning home for parade

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at 8:34 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, at 9:07 a.m.

Residents of Mulvane decorated Main Street with ribbons and signs in orange — the color of leukemia awareness — to welcome Taylor Heersche home around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City told the 15-year-old’s family she had only a few more days to live. The parade was supposed to be Taylor’s last homecoming and final farewell to a town that rallied to support her four-year fight to beat leukemia.

But instead of the parade, Mulvane residents gathered for a candlelight vigil late Tuesday to honor the teen, who died hours before she was to return to home.

DeAnne Heersche said Tuesday her daughter — a bubbly, funny, outgoing teen who loved music, theater and her dog, Kaiser — had a knack for uniting her friends and the community.

“I’ll bet every parent says that their kid was special. But she was a real people person. There were no strangers,” she said.

“That kind of kid leaves a huge hole not only in our family, but in the community. We’re all going to miss her horribly.”

Crisis counselors will be available to talk to students, faculty and staff throughout the week at Mulvane High School, district spokesman Tom Keil said.

Taylor, a sophomore at Mulvane High School, was diagnosed with the leukemia in May 2008. She was 10.

DeAnne Heersche said Taylor told her, “I can live with leukemia.”

“And I said, ‘Well, you can live with leukemia, so can we,’ ” DeAnne Heersche said. “And she lived with leukemia. She was a fireball.”

On Dec. 29, 2011 — after treatment, chemotherapy and eight cancer-free months — doctors announced the disease was back. This time, DeAnne Heersche said, “it was a genetic mutation that could not be cured by chemo.”

“This last three months at Children’s Mercy was one setback after another,” she said. Taylor got shingles. A fungus grew in her lungs. A virus attacked her bladder.

“She was fighting too many things. We just couldn’t get her healthy.”

At 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Taylor’s body started shutting down. By 8, “she was in heaven,” DeAnne Heersche said.

Taylor is survived by her parents Dan and DeAnne Heersche; 12-year-old sister, Connor; grandmother Millie Hastings; grandfather George Heersche; and several members of her extended family.

Services are at 4 p.m. Sunday at Central Community Church, 6100 W. Maple in Wichita. Those attending are asked to wear a Taylor’s Gang T-shirt or another orange top with jeans.

She will be buried Monday in Mulvane’s Littleton Cemetery during a private ceremony.

Smith Mortuaries in Derby and Mulvane are handling arrangements.

The family is asking contributions be made to several funds in lieu of sending flowers: the Taylor Heersche Cancer Fund at Carson Bank locations in Mulvane, Derby and Wichita; the Mulvane High School Thespians Club, the Mulvane Lyons/Leo’s Club, the Mulvane United Methodist Church, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Wichita.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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