Pedestrian killed rescuing a groundhog: a true animal caretaker

Friends and co-workers of 65-year-old, Linda Hochstetler, say she was constantly taking care of animals. On Saturday, Aug. 3, Hochstetler died doing just that.

Police say she spotted a groundhog along N. Main St., got out of her car to help it and then was hit by an oncoming car. She was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver of the car that struck her, Irma Hiemstra, was taken to the hospital for standard drug and alcohol testing.

“She went doing what she loved and not many of us are going to get that opportunity so I’m sure that she was happy when she was doing what she was doing,” said Hochstetler’s ex-husband Warren Kathan.

On Monday, Kathan stopped by her home in Constantine, MI, to check in on some of the animals she left behind. He was shocked at the news and recalled having talked to Hochstetler just last week about another cat she rescued and found a home for.

“Well normally if she saw an injured animal she would try to help it or see what she could do for it,” Kathan explained. Over the years he said Hochstetler has rescued dozens of animals, including her German Shepherd mix, Max, who Kathan is now taking in. Kathan said he hopes the rest of the animals are placed with families through the local humane society, if not he said he may take them in.

“She didn’t have any children of her own, the animals were her babies,” Kathan added.

Instead of children or a close-knit family it seems as if Hochstetler lived life for two things: animals and her job waitressing at the Family Restaurant in Middlebury.

According to Kathan, his ex-wife spent her whole life working. Hochstetler was a waitress for 40 years, the last eight of which she spent at the Family Restaurant.

Saturday afternoon Hochstetler was leaving a breakfast-lunch shift when she pulled over on N. Main St. to reportedly help a groundhog.

“It was so her, it was so her and she died doing the things she loved…she wanted to take care of that poor animal,” said Freda Mask, Hochstetler’s co-worker.

In memory of Hochstetler the restaurant hung black ribbons on their doors. Business was slow following her death, and the Family Restaurant closed its doors early. Mask said Hochstetler’s regular clientele heard about her death and were also shocked to hear the news.

As her “regulars” describe Hochstetler, she was a true networker; able to remember the name and order of everyone in her section of the restaurant.

“She’s going to be missed, a part of her will always remain her,” Mask added.

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