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'Irreplaceable': First responder in Ixonia dies after weeks-long battle with COVID-19

Posted at 10:20 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 10:23:08-05

IXONIA — A fire department in Jefferson County says it lost one of its own in the line of duty.

Town of Ixonia Fire and EMS Captain Kelly Raether died on Thanksgiving after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. She was 42.

"It's going to be rough, there's no replacing her," said Chief David Schilling.

Schilling says Raether had been with the department since 2005 and was his partner for 12 years.

"It's still hard to imagine that the locker will remain empty and she's just not going to be my partner," Schilling said.

Raether's dedication and drive inspired them all. She also worked as an emergency nurse and home supervisor for two years at Aurora Medical Center in Washington County.

"We are forever grateful for Kelly’s bravery and unwavering commitment to serve our patients on the front lines of this pandemic, and we continue to rally around and support our team members during this difficult time," the hospital's chief nursing officer Karen Bialas wrote in a statement.

Raether also was part of the nursing faculty at Carroll University, which wrote on its Facebook page, "As a nurse, she selflessly risked her life to care for others. For Kelly and so many others, nursing is a calling and a lifestyle. We honor our colleague Kelly and celebrate her life as a nurse and teacher. She loved Carroll University and all her students."

Chief Schilling said Raether's love for her community really shined in her calls with patients, during which she showed a unique talent of conveying skill and calm.

"She just had that demeanor about her as a seasoned practitioner that she was very good at what she did, and she cared very deeply for the people she was working with," Schilling said.

Schilling said he got the call back in October that he and his part of his team had to quarantine because Raether had tested positive for COVID-19. Schilling said it's hard to know for sure, but he thinks Raether could have gotten infected while responding to a call.

Then, Raether's mother got sick with the virus as well, but she has since recovered.

"There’s a certain element of the population out there that doesn’t believe this is real. Well, it's real," Schilling said. "And to try and drive that home, does it have to take someone getting sick? Sometimes it does."

Raether was born and raised in Ixonia, and she leaves behind her mother and sister. They didn't want to go on camera on Tuesday, but they told TMJ4 News that Raether was loving and sassy.

Besides her family, she loved The Brewers, Disney and Christmas. Her mother took Raether to the hospital on Nov. 5, and she said her daughter fought intubation in the ICU because she knew her chances of survival then were slim.

Raether's family considers her passing a death in the line of duty.

"She would also say, you got to keep moving on, you got to do what you have to do, you got to protect the community, you have to serve," Schilling said. "And the best legacy I think we can do is to keep moving forward and doing the very best we can for the community that we serve."

Raether will be honored at her funeral on Saturday.

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