In Memoriam: Kay Ann Heggestad

It’s not often that people write their own obituaries, but that’s what Life Member Kay Ann Heggestad of Madison, Wis., did prior to her death on Jan. 13.

She began: “Kay Ann Heggestad, age 72, bought the farm, is no more, has ceased to be, left this world, is bereft of life, gave up the ghost, kicked the bucket, murió, c’est fini. She died on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, after a wimpy non-battle with multiple myeloma, a nasty bone marrow cancer, after almost two years to the date of diagnosis. No one should say she fought a courageous battle, because she did not! Unlike most folks, she complained all the way. What a whiner!” (To read her full obit, go to

While Kay’s self-written obituary was humorous and self-deprecating, her children wanted people to know more about their amazing mother, so they wrote a second obituary that filled in some of the blanks they thought she left out.

“She was raised Roman Catholic and got a very good education in the Catholic school system,” the second obit read. “She used that education to help people by correcting their grammatical errors, even if no one asked her to. She later, as an adult, found that she could not tolerate a religion that treated women as second-class citizens and left the faith.”

Kay was born on Sept. 18, 1944, to John and Augusta (Pulvermacher) Heggestad in Madison, where she spent most of her life with the exception of one year as an intern in St. Paul and two years on the Navaho reservation in Gallup, N.M. She attended medical school at UW-Madison.

“The two best things about med school were finding her husband, Paul Wertsch, in the pathology lab and marrying him a year later, and being taught how to do a proper physical examination by William S. Middleton, who was her escort at med school graduation,” her self-written obit read. “She even wore a dress for that occasion.”

After a few years at a clinic, she, her husband and two others opened their own clinic in 1977, where she worked until 2000 when she became a medical director at a hospice care facility.

“She had found her true calling in life, only to be ‘let go’ after five years,” her self-obit read. “After she left, they replaced her with a puppy. Paul says it was because the dog had a nicer personality.”

Kay and Paul Wertsch were married for 48 years and have two children, Johanna Wertsch (Larry Kaltenberg) in Madison and Gregory Wertsch (Mark Ferrandino) in Denver; and two granddaughters, Paulina Kay Wertsch, and Lila Augusta Ferrandino.

Included in her obituary was a short list of places to donate memorials in lieu of flowers. That list included FFRF.

Kay was a friend and comrade in arms to the late Anne Gaylor, FFRF’s principal founder, as well as her personal physician for many years.

“We’re so grateful to Kay for her long years of cheerful support, and send condolences to her family,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation