The mother of a young man tragically slain Monday wants people to know there are resources available for people in the throes of addiction.
Wendy Hansen of Hastings is the mother of Jose “Joey” Hansen, who died of a gunshot wound Monday in the 700 block of West G Street.
During a funeral service Friday at Livingston-Butler-Volland Funeral Home, the Rev. Greg Allen-Pickett read a letter from Wendy to address the family and friends gathered for the service.
“As a mother, I fought hard to keep him out of addiction,” she said. “I never wanted him to have to suffer the lifestyle of addiction, as it is filled with many struggles.”
Wendy said after the funeral that she knows those struggles firsthand, as she had once been an addict herself. She cleaned up her life for her only son and wanted to shield him from that life. Once she learned of Joey’s drug addiction, she did everything she could think of to help her son kick the habit. She said Joey’s addiction took a turn for the worse when her fiancé died in March.
While she doesn’t know why her son was out that fateful Monday morning, she believes it is related to his drug addiction.
“It angers me that that addiction took my baby,” she said. “He’s the reason why I changed my life and did everything different so he would never have to experience anything of that life.”
Alongside photos of Joey as a child and young man, area counselors provided materials for resources in the area. Names and numbers for people who can help were available, as well as a list of substance abuse treatment centers in the state, which is also available online at dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Documents/SubAbuseRoster.pdf.
Wendy said it’s been her personal mission to help people overcome drug addiction, which is why she became a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. She works at Perspectives Professional Counseling in Hastings and Friendship House Inc. in Grand Island.
Although the loss of her son is devastating, she hopes that his death can lead people to seek help for their own addictions.
“In honor of Joey and my personal mission to help others through this pain and tragedy, I just wanted to offer solutions to others,” she stated in her letter to the audience. “I have an amazing group of friends and myself willing to help anyone needing help. Addiction does not have to be a way of life. There are options.”
But despite that addiction, Wendy remembers her son as kind-hearted, funny and respectful to everyone he met. She said he wasn’t a violent person and that she was devastated to learn he had died from a gunshot wound.
“It’s tragic how my son was taken,” she said. “It should never happen to anybody. Kids should not be carrying guns and killing anybody over anything.”
In his sermon, Allen-Pickett said he didn’t have the opportunity to meet Joey, but learned much about him in the days after his death. In speaking with Joey’s friends and family, Allen-Pickett said he discovered Joey was funny, charming and kind.
“He was always quick with a joke and always worked to make people smile, whether it was at school, at work, spending time with his family or hanging out with his friends,” Allen-Pickett said. “Joey had an infectious joy, and it was hard to feel down when you were around him.”
He explained that Joey charmed his way into the hearts of most people he met. At least one teacher remembered him as polite and respectful. Allen-Pickett said Joey often got himself out of trouble because of his charm and easy smile.
But Allen-Pickett said Joey became less charming around spiders, of which he was afraid.
“He would dive out of vehicles if there was a spider in them, scrambling across the laps of other people in the cars,” he said. “One time when he was younger and moved into a new apartment, his grandpa gave him a can of bug spray. He went outside and doused his window and exterior wall to make sure there wouldn’t be any spiders in his new bedroom.”
Joey was also remembered as kind and caring. When he worked at Applebees for about a year and a half, he tried helping out the servers when they were swamped. He would make balloon animals for kids and made sure the menus had different colors of crayons to keep the kids happy.
“I believe that this kindness was a hallmark of how Joey lived his life, and a profound reflection of his faith,” Allen-Pickett said. “The more I talked to his family and friends, the more I learned about a man who lived his life as an act of kindness and love, which are core values that Jesus himself embodied and also taught to his followers.”
He said everyone grieving Joey’s death should take comfort in the fact that he is now with God. He also challenged the audience to continue to spread the kindness and humor that Joey shared in his life.
“The best way to honor Joey’s legacy is to be a force of love and good in the world,” he said. “We are not called to seek revenge, but instead to be a force of love.”
There will also be a pancake feed fundraiser to help with funeral expenses on Saturday morning from 8-10 a.m. at Applebees.
Hastings police continue to investigate Hansen’s death as a homicide. His body was discovered Monday morning in an alley in the 700 block of West G Street.
On Monday evening, police in Lincoln arrested Deante Mullen, 19, of Lincoln, who is believed to be a possible suspect. Mullen was arrested on a theft charge in Lancaster County. No charges have been filed in the homicide case at this time.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact police at 402-461-2380.