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Canaan Woman Identified in Fatal Crash

Canaan — Police identified the victim in Tuesday’s Route 4 car accident as Luana Heikes, a 66-year-old Canaan woman who moved to the Upper Valley about two years ago to live near her daughter and two grandchildren.

Heikes was driving eastbound Tuesday on Route 4 when a tractor trailer approaching from the other direction lost control of its flatbed as it came around a curve, according to state police. The flatbed swerved across Heikes’ lane of traffic, causing Heikes to hit the rear of the trailer. Her Honda Civic came to a rest in the wooded area off the side of the road.

The driver of the tractor trailer, a 2007 Kenworth, was identified by state police as Steven Barnady, 34, of Hudson Falls, N.Y. Barnady was not injured. State police said it was raining heavily at the time of the accident. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

At the time of the accident, Heikes was headed in the direction of her home at the Red Barn Commons just off of Route 4.

Heikes grew up in Colorado and spent the majority of her life there, except for some time in California and Michigan. She had recently moved to the Upper Valley from Fort Collins, Colo., to live near her daughter, Laura Tafe, and her 10- and 7-year-old grandchildren. Growing up, Heikes had a grandmother whom she was very close with, Tafe said Wednesday at her West Lebanon home.

“She wanted to be that grandmother for my kids, and coming here she was able to do some of that,” said Tafe, adding that her mother baked, organized crafts and spent time outdoors with her grandchildren. “We’re very fortunate that she moved here and my kids had more time with her.”

After moving to the Upper Valley, Heikes found her niche among her family, newly found friends and writing groups.

Nicole Westervelt, who moved with her husband from Florida into the apartment next door, said Heikes quickly became friends with the young couple, and Westervelt said she often watched Heikes in her garden.

When the couple got married, Heikes was one of the first people they told, Westervelt said, and Heikes made them wedding pumpkin bread.

“She was baking all the time,” Westervelt said. “You had this cool neighbor and you’d walk up to the house and you could smell these ginger cookies baking and she would bring us down some.”

Heikes was approachable, thoughtful and talkative once you got to know her, Westervelt said.

In her free time Heikes enjoyed writing nonfiction and fiction , and had recently volunteered to teach a class on memoir writing at the Canaan Town Library. The class had met every Friday since May 2 and was scheduled to run through June 6. The description of the class on the library’s website advertised that students would complete an essay or potential book chapter by the end of the six-week class.

Librarian Amy Thurber said Heikes had been a regular patron at the library and approached her earlier this year about volunteering. Thurber knew Heikes was a writer, and together they decided she would offer a class.

“She kind of flew with it and came up with a pretty intense workshop and syllabus,” Thurber said. “It was a good fit for her to do this prog- ram. She was very excited about teaching the class.”

Heikes had been an elementary teacher early part in her career, but went back to school in her 40s while her daughter was still a teenager. She earned a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, but biology jobs were hard to find at the time, and she ended up doing indexing work for scientific journals. Recently, she had been doing freelance copy editing for science and medical journals, which allowed her to work from her Canaan home, Tafe said.

She kept in touch with friends from high school and college, Tafe said, and she was known for remembering people’s birthdays and religiously mailing her friends and family members birthday cards.

When Heikes married her former husband, she became the stepmother of three of his children. And while the marriage ended in divorce, Heikes still loved those three children — and their children — as if they were her own, Tafe said. And while Tafe said her mother was an introvert by nature, she was still approachable, warm and people opened up to her easily.

“She just loved everyone,” Tafe said.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.