John Ray Heitz, 67, of Island City, died at his home Sept. 28 from mesothelioma. Funeral services will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Island City. A viewing will precede the service beginning at 9 a.m.
John was born Sept. 7, 1940, to John Helmic and Vera W. Heitz in Chicago. At 2, his family moved to Fruitland, Idaho, where they eventually acquired a small farm. John learned to work as he attended school. He hoed beets, picked fruit, worked at the cannery and graduated from high school. He also learned carpentry.
After graduation in 1958, John joined the Air National Guard where he worked as an airplane electrician. On his way to basic training at San Antonio, the plane’s wings iced up while flying over the Texas panhandle. The plane went down and killed two of the crew. After John spent a week in the hospital, he no longer dreamed of being a pilot.
After graduating from basic training he returned home to begin dairy farming in New Plymouth, Idaho. He married Kay Kelly on Aug. 5, 1960. They lived on the dairy farm for the first 11 years of their marriage. Health issues forced John out of farming and back into construction full-time. He fell in love with the Grande Ronde Valley at first sight and moved his family there 34 years ago. He pursued hobbies and interests such as hunting, cutting wood, making knives, black powder shooting, gardening, motorcycles and bow hunting. John fulfilled one of his dreams by building their family home on Mt. Emily with his own hands. He spent his life working for his family and fulfilling his dreams in many ways.
He is survived by his wife Kay Heitz; children, John and Linda Heitz of Kennewick, Wash., Jay and Karin Heitz of Marsing, Idaho, and Mike and Angie Billman, Joe and Anieta Heitz, Jake Heitz, Alaina and Jake Stockhoff and Kelly Heitz, all of La Grande; adopted granddaughter, 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
La Grande Observer – Obituaries for the week ending October 6, 2007-Published: October 6, 2007