Site Navigation Menu Navigation
X Close

Tammy Heenan

September 30, 1953 - October 1, 2020

Tammy  HeenanTammy  HeenanSurrounded by loved ones, Tammy Julie Heenan, 67, passed away peacefully under the light of the harvest moon on October 1, 2020 after a five-year-long battle with antibiotic resistant pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. She was a true warrior, and her strength and determination to carry on astounded everyone.
Tammy was born on September 30, 1953 in Eureka, California to Peter and Nora Schmitt. As a teenager Tammy moved to Salem with her sister, mother, and stepfather, where she attended Parish Middle School and North Salem High School.  
In 1983, Tammy and her son, Ryan, moved to Keizer. Afterwards, Tammy enrolled at Chemeketa Community College, where she earned an associate degree. After graduation, Tammy worked for the state of Oregon for nearly twenty years, retiring due to a medical disability. During her time with Adult and Family Services, Tammy counseled her clients with compassion and advocated for them within her department. 
Tammy met Lowell, the love of her life, in 1988. They purchased a home near McNary High School in 1991 so that Ryan could continue attending school with his childhood friends. Tammy and Lowell got married at the Old Ranch at Silver Creek Falls in 1993. Their honeymoon was an unforgettable trip to Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands.
Tammy loved to travel, making trips to Europe, China, and the Philippines. She especially loved the adventures she had traveling to China and the Philippines where she and Lowell would meet up with Ryan, Heidi, and Tristan each year. She made four trips to China over the three-year span that her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson were living, working, and studying in Shenzhen, China. In Shenzhen, Tammy developed a friendship with the owner of a quaint tea shop and always looked forward to sipping freshly brewed Dragon Well tea when she would visit each year. It was a highlight of every trip to China. 
Tammy absolutely loved going to the beach. From the beaches of Oregon, California, Florida, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Europe, Tammy collected a wide array of shells, agates, and beach glass. Tammy was happy with the little things, whether it was a shell from the beach, or an agate from the river. They were all precious to her.
Tammy was blessed with a grandson who she loved and adored. She made every effort to ensure that her grandson always enjoyed his stays in Keizer. Tammy enjoyed arts and crafts, and always had an ample amount of clay, paint, and beads at the ready when her grandson arrived to visit. A testament to her fighting spirit, Tammy chose to ignore intense pain and discomfort to make her grandson a pot of homemade minestrone soup before requesting a ride to the emergency room at Salem Hospital. 
An advocate for the increased funding to fight the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections, Tammy was selected as a PEW Charitable Trust Stand Up To Superbugs Ambassador last year. In February 2020, Tammy traveled to Washington D.C., where she met with health care professionals, public health officials, scientists, and representatives on Capitol Hill to share her superbug experiences and to urge action to develop new urgently needed antibiotics. 
Tammy loved animals and cared deeply about their plight. Over the years, Tammy adopted several rescue dogs, and took in injured and abandoned animals to care for. The suffering of others impacted Tammy immensely as well. Even when feeling miserable due to illness, Tammy would drive to local stores to purchase items for homeless men and women in Keizer and Salem. When it was cold and stormy, Tammy would buy sleeping bags, tents, emergency blankets, and food items, and then deliver them by hand to those in need. She would also take time to check in with each person to let them know that their lives mattered to her.
Tammy was preceded in death by her mother, Nora; father, Peter; stepfather, John; sisters, Laurel and Terry; and nieces, Lori and Brooke. She is survived by her husband, Lowell; son, Ryan Toepfer (Heidi); her beloved grandson, Tristan; and her dear pets, Aranea, Furby, Otis, and Hazel. Tammy leaves behind her sister, Lani Searl (Ken); and her brother, Melton Little. She also leaves behind her mother-in-law, Jackie Heenan; sisters-in-law, Nancy Gander and Donna Heenan; and brothers-in-law, Eric, Joel, and Jack Heenan. Tammy had several treasured nieces and nephews, including Genevieve Duxbury, Kaila Searl, Logan Searl, Matthew Morgan, Brenda Perkins, Terri Estes, Kevin Connell, Kyra Hansen, Kyric Connell, Aiden Little, and Miles Little. Additionally, she leaves behind her best friend, Theresa McCormick, and her cherished neighbor, Liza Breitbach. Tammy had many other friends whom she loved dearly, including Jan Spurlock, Anna Gidenko, and Dawn (Mike) Kreitzberg. Furthermore, Tammy leaves behind a multitude of additional friends and neighbors who have generously offered their help and support to her and her family.
The family wishes to acknowledge the years of physical and emotional care that Aaron Evers, FNP-BC, and Dr. Robert Jones, PhD, have provided Tammy throughout the years. Additionally, the family wishes to thank the medical professionals and support staff at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Kindred Hospital, Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center, Premier Jets Lifeguard Air Ambulance, and Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center for the countless hours of care and the comfort they provided to Tammy and her family in Colorado, while in the air, and in Oregon.
The family also wishes to thank the hundreds of friends, family members, acquaintances, and perfect strangers who generously donated to the “Operation Get Mom Home” fundraiser. This afforded Tammy the opportunity to return to Oregon, and to be reunited with her friends and extended family members before she passed away.  
The family will organize a get together to celebrate Tammy’s life, the incredible woman that she was, and the joy that she brought into our lives just as soon as it is safe for large groups to gather together.

Sign The Guest Book

Add your condolences, memories, photo, or prayers in the area below. Thank you for sharing.

After submitting your guest book entry, it will undergo a brief review by the Virgil T. Golden staff to ensure that it's not spam and it's appropriate for the context of this obituary. Once this review is complete, your obituary will be posted publicly on this page.

Guest Book Entries

Debi and I have known Tami, Lowell and Ryan,and Ryan’s family for a very long time. Our boys were always welcome in their home, and they in ours. We will miss following Tami's travels vicariously, and will miss her warm heart. Our love and condolences to her family.

What a beautiful person you got to have as a mother. I’m sorry she left so young. It’s hard to have both parents gone. Such a isolating feeling.. but remember I am here and I love you. My prayers are with you and your family at their time. Hope we can be together and you can tell me more about your sweet mom. Love you much Ryan.