homepage logo

John Heilman

Jun 22, 2018

John Jacob


May 13, 1921 – Jun. 16, 2018

John Jacob Heilman, age 97, formerly of Rugby, North Dakota, died peacefully at home on Saturday, June 16, 2018 in Bismarck, North Dakota, in the loving care of his


Mass of Christian burial was held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, June 22, at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. A graveside burial immediately followed at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan, North Dakota.

Visitation was on Thursday, June 21, from 5-7 with a Rosary/vigil at 7:00 at Bismarck Funeral Home.

John was born on May 13, 1921 in New Rockford, North Dakota, the son of Karl (aka Charles) and Clara (Freeson) Heilman. He was raised in New Rockford and gra-

duated from New Rockford High School in 1940. John briefly attended Minot State College and worked as a machinist in the shipyards of Portland, Oregon, before joining the US Army in 1942. During WWII, John served in the 91st Infantry Division in Africa, Sicily and Italy from 1943-1945. While in the service, John was a

trumpeter in the 91st Infantry Division Band and was the bugler who played “Taps” at night to signal the end of the official day. After WWII, John attended the National

School of Beef Cutting in Toledo, Ohio, and from 1946-1948 worked as a meat-cutter in the Red Owl grocery store in New Rockford. Here, he met his future wife Harriet Isabel Quick of Fargo, North Dakota, who was a teacher at the junior high and high school in New Rockford. The two would see each other in church, while Harriet shopped at the grocery store where John worked, or at local events as when Harriet saw John perform as a comedic actor in a New Rockford community play, but they rarely talked to each other. With her plans to move back to Fargo at the end of the 1948 school year, Harriet, on the spur of the moment, phoned and asked John out on their first date May 7, 1948 as her escort to the high school prom, she being one of the teachers chaperoning the event. John proposed 25 days later! The couple

was married at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo on September 1, 1948. For their honeymoon, John and Harriet traveled to the Black Hills in South Dakota and then on to their first home in Sunflower, Kansas, where John attended the Kansas City School of Watchmaking in Kansas City, Missouri, under the GI-Bill.

In November 1949, John passed the National Horology Examination, and in July 1950, he was awarded with his certification for Jewelry and Stone-Setting. John re-

ceived his Certificate of Proficiency as a certified watchmaker from the United Horological Association of America, Inc. in December 1950, and at that time, the family

moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where John was a watchmaker at a jewelry store. In September 1951, John and Harriet moved back to New Rockford and started

their own watchmaking/repair, engraving, jewelry and gift business named Heilman’s Jewelry. A final move took them to Rugby in 1960 where together they continued to own and operate Heilman’s Jewelry for 26 years, which included a Hallmark card and gift shop. John and Harriet were blessed with eight children, seven daughters and one son, with all of their daughters working at the jewelry store growing up and their son selling aquarium fish in a back section of the store during high school. After his retirement in 1986, John carried on repairing watches, clocks and jewelry out of his home, with a seemingly endless stream of customers whom he enjoyed visiting with as he worked at his watch bench in his basement. Throughout his years in business and into 2012, the Heilman’s Jewelry booth at the annual Rugby Armory Spring Expo was a popular and much appreciated attraction, where John provided free ring inspection/cleaning and replacement of watch batteries. Over the last few

years in Bismarck, John spent time at his watch bench taking joy in making pearl and jewel-beaded necklaces for family, friends and people he would meet in the community.

John was a devout member of Little Flower Catholic Church in Rugby where he served as a Lector and Eucharistic Lay Minister for many years. He was also a member of the 3rd and 4th Degree Knights of Columbus Council #4136 and an Honor Guard for the John F. Kennedy #0786 Assembly of the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. A

proud accomplishment for John was being the first president of the International Peace Garden Field Mass Association, established by the Rugby, Harvey, and Dunseith,

North Dakota, USA, and Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, Knights of Columbus councils. The first Field Mass was celebrated at the United States/Canada International Peace Gardens in 1960 and has since continued annually each second Sunday of July, where people gather outdoors from the two countries to promote good relationships and to pray for peace among all nations. For a number of years, John also served as a School Board Member for Little Flower Catholic School and was an active volunteer in the annual church supper, school carnival, and various other activities. While living in Rugby, John was faithful in attending daily Mass and saying the Rosary with his wife Harriet. Upon moving to Bismarck in 2012, living at Edgewood Vista and then at his daughter Barbara and husband Dr. Thomas Thorson’s home, John and Harriet were members of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

Active in the Rugby community, John was a member of the Rugby Chamber of Commerce and played the trumpet in the Rugby Centennial Community Band. John was also a 73-year member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a 58-year member of the Clarence Larson American Legion Post #23. He took pride in playing “Taps” on the trumpet and carrying the American flag as a member of the American Legion Honor and Color Guard, bestowing military honors for veterans at funerals in Rugby. John also was a member and served as the Acting Commander of Rugby’s WWII Last Man’s Club (organized in 1999) where veterans enjoyed sharing memories and comradeship at meetings.

An avid fisherman, John took several camping trips to Canada and Montana over the years with friends and relatives, always coming home with memorable stories – most notably, one where a floatplane pulled his group’s stalled boat to shore from the middle of a large lake (nearly capsizing the boat), and another where they unexpectedly trapped a bear! John often said, “When the Walleyes are biting, it’s time to fish!” He also enjoyed vegetable gardening, playing cards, especially

“Liverpool,” helping his son build Soap Box Derby cars, dancing with his wife, daughters and granddaughters at weddings, ice-skating, watching old movies on TV, and

was a life-long Minnesota Twins fan. John considered his beloved wife Harriet a true blessing and was a proud father, grandfather and great-grandfather (and ad-

mittedly a “stubborn old German” at times) who cherished his family.

John is survived by his eight children: Patricia and her husband Al Kedora – Overland Park, Kansas, Dr. Kay and her husband Dr. Thomas Tweeten – Prior Lake,

Minnesota, JoAnn (Heilman) Ho – Overland Park, Kansas, Thomas Heilman and his wife Sharon – Bismarck, North Dakota, Marilyn and her husband Peter Guthrie – Naperville, Illinois, Jeanne and her husband Peter Crain – Edina, Minnesota, Barbara and her husband Dr. Thomas Thorson – Bismarck, North Dakota, and Margie and her husband Tony Galvin – Edina, Minnesota.

He also leaves 23 grandchildren: Dr. John Kedora and his wife Diana, Kristyan (Tweeten) and her husband Travis Mjolsnes, Trevor Tweeten and his wife Marine,

Christina (Ho) and her husband Brian Finney, Michael Ho, Lindsey (Heilman) and her husband Dave Lindsey, Eric Heilman and wife Laura, Margie (Guthrie) and her

husband AJ Kemsley, Ann Guthrie, Molly Guthrie, Robert Guthrie, Betsy Guthrie, Nicholas Crain, Matthew Crain, Jacob Crain, Jessica (Thorson) and her husband Scott

Kahl, Jacqueline Thorson, Patricia (Thorson) and her husband Kelsey Haage, Andrew Thorson, Jenna (Thorson) and her husband Hunter Volk, Adam Thorson, Sydney Galvin and Lucas Galvin.

In addition, John leaves his 13 great-grandchildren: Pierson and Julianna Kedora, Elyanna, Logan, and Wyatt Mjolsnes, Caydence Ho, Kathryn Ho-Finney, Christian and Liv Lindsey, and Stella, Ambrose, Abram and Sutton Kahl.

John is survived by his sister-in-law Anita (Quick) Pollock, Duluth, Minnesota, niece Pamela (Heilman) Branch and her husband Ken and family, Long Beach, California,

nephew Michael Heilman and wife Donelle and family, Lakeville, Minnesota, niece Peggy (Pollock) Holden, Loves Park, Illinois, and niece Barbara (Pollock) Haberkorn and her husband David and family, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

John was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Harriet of 66 years who passed away on January 21, 2015, sister Elizabeth, brother Ambrose, brother Joseph and his wife Evelyn (Suz) (Peterson) Heilman, and granddaughter Nicole Thorson.

The Heilman family would like to express a heartfelt thank you to the Sanford Home Health Care and Hospice nurses and aides who were so loving, gentle and com-

passionate in their professional care for John and went above and beyond to assist the family with all of John’s medical needs.

Memorials are welcomed to Little Flower Catholic Church at 218 3rd Avenue SE, Rugby, ND, 58368 or Sanford Hospice at 910 18th Street NW, Mandan, ND, 58554.

A very special THANK YOU from the entire Heilman family to Barb and Tom Thorson for generously opening up their home to our parents Harriet and John in May 2014

and lovingly caring for both of them through the final years of their lives. The daily gifts of your personal time, energy and patience, and the tender loving care you and your family provided to Mom and Dad over these past few years has been invaluable. You are a real blessing to our family and we love you dearly!

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page