Jaci Hermstad

Jaci Hermstad, 26, a true warrior and angel, passed away holding her loving parents’ hands on Friday, May 1, 2020 in their home in Spencer.

Private family services were held Friday, May 8, with a Celebration of Life service to follow at a later date. Burial was in Storm Lake Cemetery. In lieu of flowers and memorials, we ask that you wait until the Celebration of Life service. Thank you so much for understanding and honoring the families wishes at this time. Fratzke & Jensen Funeral Home in Storm Lake is in charge of the arrangements.

Jaci was born along with her twin sister Alex on Aug. 22, 1993 to Jeff and Lori (Hadden) Hermstad in Cherokee.

Jaci attended St. Mary’s Catholic Schools and Storm Lake Community Schools. Jaci was confirmed at Grace Lutheran Church in Storm Lake in 2008.  Jaci was active in many sports and very much enjoyed outdoor activities.  She loved four-wheeling, snowmobiling, gardening, boating — and especially found a passion for riding horses.  Jaci and Alex were introduced to horses at the age of four. Jaci looked back at that day as the moment her enthusiasm and love for horses began. Riding horses became her therapy and helped her feel close to Alex as she moved forward in life without her sister at the age of 17. She won numerous first place awards at Buena Vista County Fair as a 4-H member. She was passionate about livestock, horses and rodeos.  She was crowned Miss Rodeo Cherokee in 2012. She felt a sense of duty and honor with the position as young girls, even years later, would tell Jaci how her kindness impacted them. Anyone who met Jaci fell in love with her infectious personality and zest for life.  Jaci graduated from Storm Lake High School in 2012. She was a featured speaker at her commencement ceremony where she said, “life will give you trials and tribulations but it’s how you respond to them is what’s important.” 

Jaci excelled at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, earning an associates of applied science degree in agricultural production management but more importantly, winning hearts. She served as an agriculture ambassador for the school and was asked to speak at a scholarship recognition dinner. She left everyone in tears as she walked off stage to a standing ovation. 

Jaci interned at a working cattle and horse ranch in Montana over the summer of 2014 where she learned a lot about western lifestyle and cow/calf operations. There were no worries of this cowgirl from Iowa keeping up with the ranching chores. It was one of the happiest and most memorable times in her life as she always wanted to venture out west.

Jaci then graduated with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural science from South Dakota State University. She found her dream job in Spencer working for Spencer Ag as a field marketer. Jaci cherished and loved her time working at Spencer Ag, all the people she worked with, and customers around Northwest Iowa. Jaci’s coworkers and customers quickly learned that she gives 110% to everything in life. 

Jaci dove headlong into her career with the same determination and joy for life she always had. She was a board member on Clay County Cattleman’s Association and Clay County Farm Bureau. Spencer Daybreakers Kiwanis Club recognized Jaci just last year for her outstanding efforts and dedication to agriculture.

She could shoot the breeze and her quick and witty personality left everyone with a smile. Jaci had a sweet disposition to be able to talk to anyone. Additionally, if you were around Jaci, within no time at all, her infectious laugh would fill the air. If you listened closely, you would hear some fun-spirited snorts too.

Frequently referred to as Ginger, Jaci was known to buy lunch for a stranger, as a Jaci-way to pay it forward to others. 

Jaci didn’t let losing her sister Alex to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) stop her. Though a part of her died along with Alex, Jaci didn’t turn towards despair and darkness. She embraced life and loved her family, her friends, her faith, her job and her horse, Bud. She lived her life with laughter, courage and a positive outlook — even against impossible odds after her own ALS diagnosis on Valentine’s Day 2019. As Jaci faced the same disease that took her sister on Valentine’s Day 2011, she didn’t give up.  She stood up to the ravages of ALS and fought it courageously. She personally urged lawmakers and the FDA to release a new personalized drug designed for her to treat her relentless type of ALS.  Eventually that drug would be known as “Jacifusen”. She started treatment in June 2019 and had her 12th and final treatment in March 2020. She did not lose the fight against ALS.  Jacifusen is currently being used to treat other ALS patients and eventually expanding from there. Her doctors have hope Jacifusen is on the cusp of becoming a cure or to at least slow down symptoms for Jaci and Alex’s type of ALS. Jaci and Alex are both our selfless heroes in the ALS community. They are helping to save lives and advancing science furthering studies by both valiantly donating their tissue to research to a level where someday soon a cure might be found.

With a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye, Jaci always lived up to her response to the question “How are you doing?” by replying “Livin the dream.”

Jaci’s sacrifice, perseverance and courage in the face of overwhelming odds, is already becoming legendary in the ALS community and her story will have everlasting influence on countless others. The impact Jaci’s life and journey had is profound — thousands of well-wishers from all over the world followed Jaci and hoped and prayed for the miracle of a cure. Jaci’s parents, Jeff and Lori, cannot express their thanks enough to so many. 

Though her time tragically ended far too soon, Jaci loved life and lived it to the fullest with no regrets. She loved horses, cows and all animals, loved to dance, loved running, loved country music, loved snowmobiling and four-wheeling, loved to make others laugh, loved to work hard, loved spending time with family and friends, loved to encourage and lift up those who are down and loved living her faith. Jaci embraced life and Heaven is now lucky to have our cowgirl.

Those left to cherish her memory include parents Lori and Jeff Hermstad of Spencer; maternal grandmother Jean Hadden of Storm Lake; uncles and aunts: Scott (Renee) Hadden of Victoria, Minn.; Terri (Bruce) Groen of Spencer; Mike Hadden of Indianola; Mike Hermstad of Spencer; Tim (Mary Boge) Hermstad of Sioux Rapids; Brad (Heidi) Hermstad of Sioux Rapids; cousins: Kady Groen of Des Moines; Brody (Mikaela) Groen of Minnetonka, Minn.; Ashley and Amanda Hadden of Victoria, Minn.; Heather (Kyle) Hennings of Hartley; Haley Hermstad of Hartley; Grayson and Kayley Hermstad of Sioux Rapids; extended family and many friends.

Jaci is preceded in death by her identical twin sister Alexandria “Alex” Hermstad; maternal grandfather David Hadden; paternal grandparents Milo Hermstad and Colleen Hermstad; uncle Bruce Hermstad; and aunt Denise Hermstad.

As was often spoken, “Love you sweet cheeks” ~Jaci

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