Friday, March 30, 2012

A Tribute to Iddo C. Heinicke II

Sixteen years ago on March 8, 1996, my Grandpa — Rev. William B. Maier — died in Eugene, Oregon. Remarkably, my in-laws Iddo and Joyce Heinicke were able to attend my grandfather’s memorial service because they had come to Eugene from Seward, Nebraska, soon after he died to visit us while Iddo was in Oregon for Lutheran Church Extension Fund business. Iddo and Joyce had met my grandfather a couple of times during earlier visits to Eugene, and they had a certain fondness for him because both of them were the children of fathers who were career pastors in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the same time my grandfather was a pastor in the same Synod. We always wondered if Rev. Heinicke, Rev. Muhl, and Rev. Maier had ever met each other in seminary or at a LCMS conference of some sort.

Anyway, on very short notice, I was asked by family members to eulogize my grandfather at his memorial service. I had only a very brief time to collect my thoughts and no time at all to write anything down. My grandfather had been a very important person in my life for many years, and I had been the family person with him during his last days, so I trusted the Holy Spirit would give me meaningful words to say. I spoke the words that came to me. Afterwards, Iddo asked me if I would say something at his funeral.

It was odd for Iddo to compliment my eulogy of my grandfather in that way, but I took him at his word. To have known Iddo was to know that he spoke his truth plainly; he would have never asked me to speak of him unless he truly meant it. Now here it is that Iddo has died, that his funeral will be tomorrow, and that I will not be there to say what should be said. Certainly, others will say fine things about Iddo, and some of those fine things could easily surpass anything that I might ever say. But Iddo asked me to speak of him at his funeral, so I will make my tribute here in writing.

I am Steven A. Sylwester, and I was Iddo’s son-in-law from October 26, 1975, until the day he died, which is 36 years 5 months time. I have known his daughter Kathie since we were both five years old and lived across the street from each other. Kathie (hereafter Koe) and I were classmates from first grade through eighth grade at St. John Lutheran School in Seward. I have had a crush on Koe since fifth grade, though I never told her so until we were both 20 years old, because the fullness of time had not yet happened.

The fullness of time is a Biblical truism. It is generally thought of in relation to Bible prophecies being fulfilled, but its greater truth is an acknowledgment of God’s Plan for each of our lives. I believe all time is Biblical time, even now, for there has been no time since Creation when God was not here present; the history of the world is the history of Immanuel — “God with us.” I mention that here because to know Iddo as a child of God is to see the very Presence of God at every turn in his life, and to also see the fullness of time happening at each turn.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. John 1: 1, 10-13 NRSV

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV

Iddo Charles Heinicke II, a child of God who had humbly lived a Spirit-directed life, died in the Lord at 5:00 a.m. on March 25, 2012, after a peaceful night of sleep while in hospice care in Seward, Nebraska. He had been suffering heart ailments for several years. He was 88 years 9 months old.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.” Revelation 14: 13 NRSV

Iddo was born June 25, 1923, in Hoxie, Kansas, to Rev. Iddo C., Sr., and Elizabeth (Boehne) Heinicke. He was the third oldest of their eight children: seven boys and one girl, all of whom eventually became professional church workers in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, including three brothers who became ordained pastors. Iddo was baptized a child of God on July 1, 1923, and publicly confirmed his faith in his Lord Jesus Christ on March 21, 1937 — a faith that he held to firmly for the rest of his life.

Iddo moved to Seward in 1935 when his father became the pastor at St. John Lutheran Church, and he happily called Seward his home for the next 77 years. There was no other place of majesty and grandeur that surpassed the Nebraska landscape for him, no great city, no magnificent mountaintop, no deep forest, and no ocean beach — and he visited an abundance of such other places in his lifetime. He was the quintessential Nebraskan who would not trade “The Good Life” for anything other than God’s Heaven.

After graduating from Concordia High School in Seward in 1941, Iddo attended Concordia Teachers College in Seward for two years before enlisting in the U.S. Army at the beginning of World War Two. The Army selected him for special training and sent him to the Colorado School of Mines where he was enrolled in engineering studies until additional soldiers were needed in Europe following the D-Day Invasion. He fought as an infantryman in the European Theater, first in the 66th Infantry Division known as the Black Panther Division and then in the 42nd Infantry Division known as the Rainbow Division. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star. He was present at the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945, which was a very traumatic experience for him as a 21-year-old combat-hardened soldier — in fact, it was an experience so terrible and searing that he never talked about it publicly because the deep sorrows his vivid memories provoked in him at his retelling of the events of that day were too overwhelming.

Iddo was a patriot who proudly flew the American flag on a flagpole in his front yard. He actively participated in local and national Veterans organizations, including having lifetime memberships in Seward VFW Post #4755 and Seward American Legion Post #33. He dedicated his post-WWII life to doing Good by making a positive difference in his profession, in his community, and in his church.

After the war, Iddo completed his formal education by earning a degree in geology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He must have had dreams of becoming a geologist. But he also had obligations — obligations he could not even imagine until the day came when they were his. On June 14, 1949, Iddo’s father was tragically killed in a road accident while on a trip to a family wedding. His father died nine days before what would have been his 63rd birthday and eleven days before Iddo turned 26. Iddo was the third oldest of his parents’ eight children, some of whom were still teenagers living at home at the time of their father’s death. His oldest brother Gary was a career U.S. Air Force officer stationed abroad and his second oldest brother Ed was a Lutheran pastor already in the ministry, so Iddo suddenly had the obligation to become the widow’s caretaker son for his mother and his youngest siblings. He picked up that obligation, found a career opportunity in Seward, and never spoke any regret about it in his later life.

For 25 years from 1950 to 1975, Iddo was employed at Jones National Bank and Trust in Seward. He began his banking career there as a cashier and ended it as vice-president.

Iddo was united in marriage to Joyce Muhl on June 9, 1952, in Williamsburg, Iowa — a marriage that lasted almost 60 years. Their marriage was blessed with three children: Stephanie Lee, Kathie Lynn (Koe), and David William. Iddo and Joyce had much in common: both of their fathers were Lutheran pastors who served LCMS congregations in the central Midwest, both graduated from Concordia High School, both attended Concordia Teachers College (where Joyce graduated), and both supported the work of the “Lutherans For Life” organization. Iddo and Joyce prayed together and spoke devotions together, and the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church were central to everything about their life together. Once, in Joyce’s presence, when he was finally given the podium at a banquet honoring him for a significant career accomplishment, Iddo did not glory in his own accomplishments, but instead gave public thanks and praise to Joyce for her many unheralded accomplishments as his wife and helpmate and for her surpassingly fine work as the mother of their children. Though Iddo was a man who was ever faithful and dutiful in doing the Lord’s work and was a cheerful and generous giver of his time and talents, he never thought more highly of his own hard work than he thought of the hard work of others: he valued the widow’s mite as much as he valued the rich man’s millions.

In 1957, Iddo began his long career as a professional church worker by accepting part-time duties as the treasurer of the Southern Nebraska District of the LCMS. When the Northern and Southern Districts merged in 1975, he was asked to serve the newly formed Nebraska District of the LCMS as a full-time financial officer, so he left Seward County banking to do a job that eventually became influential in the creation of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, which can be rightly thought of as the banking arm of the Lord’s Vineyard in the LCMS.

Iddo’s mother died in Seward on February 24, 1974, at age 79. The following year, Iddo began working for the LCMS on a full-time basis.

Excerpts from:

The mission of Lutheran Church Extension Fund is to support the Church in fulfilling its mission of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ by being a Christ-centered servant partner of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), ensuring that funds and services are available now and in the future.

LCEF is a nonprofit religious organization; therefore, LCEF investments are not FDIC-insured bank deposit accounts.

LCEF, incorporated in 1978, is a continuation of the Synod's service to the entire LCMS. In fiscal year 2011, LCEF welcomed nearly 500 new loan customers. Congregations and schools gained funds for building, upgrading or remodeling facilities, and rostered church workers secured reasonable housing and consolidation loans. LCEF partners with more than 55,000 investors to make the funds available for these loans. Together, these partnerships have resulted in a total asset portfolio of $1.8 billion.

God has truly blessed the ministry of Church Extension and its supporters!

As a full-time church worker, Iddo’s responsibilities to the Nebraska District of the LCMS expanded to include the positions of business manager, church extension vice-president, and assistant to the president in missions, all of which coupled with his 25 years of experience as a local banker gave him seed ideas that were crucial to the help he gave in establishing the foundations of the LCEF. Iddo retired in 1988, but continued to serve as vice-president and regional coordinator of the LCEF for many more years.

In 2001, the LCEF founded Silver Eagles, a special group of past LCEF leaders who meet periodically to serve in a continuing life-long advisory capacity to the organization. Iddo was inducted as a charter member of the LCEF Silver Eagles in 2001 and attended his last yearly meeting in 2011.

It cannot be overstated: Iddo brought the friendly face-to-face handshake of Seward County banking to the LCEF. Throughout his career with the Nebraska District of the LCMS, Iddo drove to every corner and far-reach of Nebraska to first look-and-see for himself and to then personally meet with the pastors and congregations seeking financial help so that he would know the help he could provide would be well-spent. He cared deeply about his work because he knew he was doing the Lord’s work. Quite simply, he was instrumental in helping secure financial support for many fledgling churches throughout Nebraska. He found particular satisfaction in the numerous friendships he and his wife Joyce made with fellow Lutherans across Nebraska as a result of his work.

From June 1972 through November 1982, Iddo served on the Seward City Council.

From 1989 to 1998, Iddo served on the Concordia University, Nebraska, Board of Regents during a critically important transition time in the history of Concordia. What had been Concordia Teachers College became part of the Concordia University System in 1995, and then became a university in its own right in 1998. The Concordia University System was formed in 1992 by the LCMS and is now an organization of ten independent colleges and universities located across the United States that interact with each other in mutually beneficial ways while sharing some resources and services. Other significant milestones at CUNE during Iddo’s tenure as a regent include: 1) the hosting of the first annual Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival in 1995, an event that now draws more than 8,000 elementary and middle school student participants every year; and 2) the construction of Bulldog Stadium in 1997, a 1,400-seat stadium that hosts the athletic events of Concordia's track, football, and soccer teams, CUNE intramural sports, Seward High School football and soccer games, and community joggers.

Iddo received the Lifetime Service Award from CUNE in 1998 when he retired from the Board of Regents.

Iddo was a member of St. John Lutheran Church in Seward since 1935, and was always faithful to serve the congregation according to his talents. At different times he served the congregation as vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer, and elder, and he held positions on the stewardship committee and the finance committee. While his children were students at St. John Lutheran School in the 1960s, Iddo served on the school board. He was a longtime member of the Lutheran Layman’s League.

Iddo's favorite past-times included playing golf, doing crossword puzzles, having coffee with his friends, attending University of Nebraska football games with Joyce, and driving with Joyce to distant places to visit family members and friends.

Iddo was preceded in death by father, Iddo C., Sr.; mother, Elizabeth; brothers Rev. Edward, Gerhard, Rev. Victor; brother-in-law Robert Schmidt; sisters-in-law Nadine Heinicke, Jacquelyn Kienast.

Survivors include wife, Joyce; brothers Rev. Martin (Lovila), Theodore (Florence), and William (Pat); sister, Elizabeth Schmidt; sisters-in-law Norma Heinicke, Eleanor Heinicke, Judith Perez (Manuel); brothers-in law Reginald Muhl (Verna Jane), Don Kienast; daughters Stephanie Bean (Michael), Kathie Sylwester (Steve); son David (Jane); grandchildren Natalie Roche (Brian), Anne Gill-Bloyer (Jason), Cameron Bean, Eva Sylwester, Liesel Sylwester, Ilsa Heinicke, Eric Heinicke, Carl Heinicke, Clara Heinicke; three great-grandchildren; nieces and nephews.

It can be said about Iddo C. Heinicke II that the world lost a righteous man at his passing from mortal life to Eternity and that God's Heaven gained a saint.

Steven A. Sylwester
March 30, 2012