Tribute to Summer Hartzfeld

Tribute to Summer Hartzfeld

Written by Ada Heerschop, former Market Manager

This year I found out that a longtime RFM Member had cancer. Summer Hartzfeld passed away yesterday. I visited her just a week ago and thought she would have some time left. She was only 44 years old. In her short time on earth she faced challenges that to many would have been insurmountable.

Her eyesight was taken when she was just a toddler by retinoblastoma. She wore prosthetic eyes the whole time I knew her. She had some faint memories of colours and visual memories she would dream about. She was placed in foster care. Her childhood was a sad one, she grew up feeling unloved and abandoned. I am forever pained that she had to face the world in darkness with no loving family supporting her. Later in her teens she found a happier foster home and began to thrive.

As she got older she learned how to navigate through life with a disability. She chose to lead as normal a life as possible. She had triumphs like when she ran a 42-kilometre marathon in Hawaii. She became a jewelry designer and small business owner. She sat on the Board of Directors of the Regina Farmers’ Market. She got a trusty guide dog which opened up more freedoms. Customers and members of the RFM loved her. She became a Section Manager for the Regina Amateur Radio Association. It was an awesome social outlet for her to talk on CB.

Summer had a dry sense of humour. She would often make self-deprecating jokes about blindness. She would tease me on how I talked with my hands. “Do you expect that I can see it? I certainly can feel the wind from your hands moving!”. She would faithfully report a general accounting of how much money the busker down the street made, as she could calculate by the sounds of the coins dropping in his case. It was amazing!

When I visited her last week there were several times when she became emotional. She was told she would live a couple of months more, she told me quietly she knew it would be far sooner than that. She was right. We chatted and laughed about old times. I whispered to her that she knew me well enough to know that my joking with her, making her laugh, was what I do in a sad situation to reduce the tension. She said she knew. Then we both said at the same time, “It’s not fair! This isn’t fair”. I am grateful only once that she was blind, that she didn’t see the tears in my eyes as I left her behind.

As Michelle Lee just texted me, I do hope you are looking down on us for the first time from heaven. I know there are vendors from RFM that this affects more than others. I would be remiss if I did not mention Gail Mcilwrick who was her constant friend and helper at the Market. My sympathies to you and all who knew her well.