WAUSA – Chris and Heidi Haberer are thankful for all of the support they have received during a trying time for them.
The Wausa couple has been grieving the loss of Payne Michael Haberer, their 2-yearold son who died Aug. 15.
Heidi noted she and Chris believe they are surrounded by – in their minds – the best communities in the state of Nebraska.
“We have received so much support from area communities, from people purchasing Payne shirts and bracelets to sending cards with kind words about our son,” Heidi said.
“The generosity from all over has been extremely humbling,” she said. “The words ‘thank you’ will never be enough.”
Chris and Heidi (Hefner) both are Coleridge natives who have made Wausa their home.
“In Coleridge, we always say, ‘Once a Bulldog, Always a Bulldog,’ and although that is true, we were looking forward to having a little Viking in our home,” Heidi said. “We have so much pride and love for Wausa.
“The support we have received from everyone in this community has been so overwhelmingly heartwarming,” she said. “Just like most small towns in Nebraska, we live in a community where everyone truly has everyone’s back in a time of need.”
Heidi said not only does Wausa have “amazing adults” whom she and Chris call their friends, but their hearts will always have a special place for all of the “amazing kids” who live in the community.
“We have received notes addressed to Payne from the younger kids, youth league football players putting Payne’s name on their cleats to wearing a ‘P’ necklace to remember him,” Heidi said.
“The older kids organizing the T-shirt sale, getting the football decals, ordering the Payne bracelets and wearing the #paynestrong warmup shirts is a testament to how wonderful, smart and caring the kids of this community are, which in our minds also goes to show how these young kids are being raised,” she said.
Shane Anderson, the principal of grades 5-12 for Wausa Public Schools, told the school district’s board of education on Sept. 19 he wanted to highlight the ways students have honored Payne’s memory.
“Our kids have just done some tremendous things to raise money and recognize Payne and the family,” Shane said.
“They’ve sold T-shirts,” he said. “They’ve put out donation buckets. The football team ordered stickers for their helmets.”
He said Wausa students have a history of helping out people who need assistance, such as the Pierce family who lost three children in a January house fire.
“When they see someone in need, they really seem to be good at ideas and really wanting to help those people, so I wanted to recognize them,” Shane said.
Heidi described Payne – who was born on Dec. 4, 2019 – as the light of her and Chris’ life.
“He was smart, inquisitive, ornery, caring, full of energy and so very lovable,” Heidi said. “He was always on the go from the minute his feet hit the floor in the morning.
“The only time he would slow down was to read books or watch tractor or cow videos,” she said. “His smile was infectious. He wasn’t afraid of anything.”
Heidi noted Payne would always say ‘Hi’ to everyone when they were out in public until he got a ‘Hi’ back.
“He loved going to the ‘Nipp boys’ and requested to, every single day after daycare,” Heidi said. “He loved ‘pick’ rides with his dad and going out to the golf course and to Pinky’s (Lounge in downtown Wausa).”
Heidi recalled Payne oftentimes would request to go out to golf practice with Chris, who is Wausa High School’s head golf coach, at the Rolling Hills Country Club west of Wausa.
“He loved rocking with me every night before bed as we either watched ‘Zootopia’ or ‘Ferdinand,’” she said.
Heidi remembered Payne often requested “two more minutes” if he wanted to go somewhere or if he wanted to stay longer somewhere; he got that from the timeout timer always being two minutes.
“He loved going to the library on Fridays with Grandma Robbi, our next-door neighbor who has become our family – she watched him every Friday,” she said.
Heidi said Payne loved all of his grandparents.
“He loved his Nana Brenda, Papa Monty and Grandma Cindy and honorary Grandpa Mike, as well as all his aunts and uncles and cousins,” she said.
“Every morning, Payne would plant a kiss on his late Grandpa Roger’s picture in our hallway,” she said. “I just don’t want to leave out how much he loved him.”
Heidi recalled Payne’s love of animals, especially alpacas.
“He absolutely loved Uncle Brett’s alpaca and that became the talk of many conversations,” she said.
Heidi said Payne loved all of their family friends and their children.
“Those kids loved him so much,” she said. “He had a special love for his ‘girlfriend,’ Stella. They called each other their boyfriend and girlfriend at the young age of 2.”
Heidi is the clinic manager at the Wausa Medical Clinic and Randolph Family Practice, which are both owned by Osmond General Hospital.
In addition to being Wausa High School’s head golf coach, Chris is the head greens superintendent at the Rolling Hills Country Club.
For Heidi, multiple people stepped up to help keep everything up to date at work as she took time off to mourn the loss of Payne.
In addition to being the clinic manager, she also does coding and billing for the Wausa Medical Clinic.
“Our co-workers and employers are family,” Heidi said. “I can’t say enough how proud I am of our teams in both clinics for taking initiative in doing what needed to be done.
“I have so much love for all of them and also everyone at Osmond General Hospital for being so understanding, kind and compassionate,” she said.
Heidi said Chris had Rolling Hills board members, past employees, current employees and clubhouse staff helping him out at the golf course.
“He has so much appreciation for everyone helping when and where they could and also being so understanding the last month,” Heidi said. “He is so grateful and has so much love for all the wonderful people he works with.”