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Former teacher remembered for lifelong service

Bob Heebink (left) talks with his “co-authors” of the neighborhood block party, Vince and Pam Kaiser. The three got together and planned the second annual block party for July 27, 2009, in Heebink’s backyard. Heebink was celebrating his 50th year of service with the New Richmond Kiwanis group on July 31, 2009, — the same day as his 90th birthday. (Photo by Julia Ybarra-Young)

Bob Heebink, a resident of New Richmond and long time educator at the New Richmond High School, passed away on Feb. 23 at the age of 94.

“He was a teacher for many years, but he prefered the term educator,” said Heebink’s son James Heebink. “He was a somewhat formal person and he’ll be missed by a lot of people. He spent over 50 years in the New Richmond School District.”

Heebink was born on July 31, 1919, in Baldwin. He married Marie Van Someren on June 2, 1942, and had they had three sons: James, Thomas and Paul. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural education from the State Teachers College - River Falls in 1941 and later received his Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 1963.

“He was a teacher at the high school here in New Richmond for a very long time where he taught vocational agriculture,” James said. “I never had any of his classes, but he was always there at school to watch over me through my high school years.”

Heebink joined the Army in 1942 and served in the 40th Combat Engineer Battalion in Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany for more than three years.

“He was very proud of his military service in World War II,” James said. “He was proud to be saving the world.”

For 52 years, Heebink was a part of the New Richmond School District starting in September 1948. He was a high school agricultural instructor, vocational coordinator and Community Education director, which he started in 1980. His program was a model for many other community education programs throughout the state and the nation.

“He was a fantastic teacher and the best one I ever had during my high school years,” said Kevin Stork, who was FFA president in 1973 when Heebink was advisor of the organization. “He was a fair guy, but he was very disciplined and expected his students to be that way too. It was a privilege to have him as a teacher and advisor.”

Aside from his teaching career, Heebink was also involved in many other organizations and programs, such as the United Way, where he was secretary for 11 years, the New Richmond Park Board for 26 years, the Wisconsin Community Education Association and the Friday Aquatic Center Task Force. Heebink was also New Richmond Kiwanis president in 1986, a club which he joined in 1959.

“He was a well-respected guy and was instrumental to Kiwanis here in New Richmond,” Stork said. “He was a pillar of the organization for years. He was one of the people to start the award for FFA Member of the Year, which I was lucky enough to win once.”

Along with his work with many different groups in New Richmond, Heebink also enjoyed beautification activities around the house, fishing, golfing, dancing and travelling with his wife Marie.

“He was a guy who had a very regular routine,” James said. “He was very into traditions, especially for birthdays and holidays. Saturday was the only day he wouldn’t shave and every Friday he would have a Brandy and Seven.”

Throughout his teaching career, Heebink won many awards, including the National Professional Award from the National Community Education Association in 1987 and Citizen of the Year in New Richmond in 1992, as well as being inducted into the Wisconsin Community Education Association’s Hall of Fame in 2000.

“My dad would always try to make it to every meeting he could and make sure that he was bringing something to contribute to each meeting as well,” James said. “He was not afraid to speak his mind and get his thoughts out there.”

Memorial services for Heebink were held on Tuesday, March 4, at the New Richmond United Methodist Church. Memorials will be directed to an existing scholarship at New Richmond High School in his name.

“He will be missed not only by his family, but by the community as well,” James said.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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