Jerald "Jerry" Lee Heckenlaible, 78, of Madison, died Thursday, January 7, 2021, at the Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls. A memorial service will occur at a later date.
Jerry was born May 15, 1942 in Pierre, SD to Ronald Reinhold "Rhiney" and Katherine (Rath) Heckenlaible. His mother said she heard the noon whistle blow just as he took his first breath. He spent his entire childhood on his parents' ranch 2 miles south of Highmore, SD. It was there he learned the meaning of hard work as he helped his parents with livestock, crops, and routine ranch chores. He also developed a love of the outdoors and rarely missed an opportunity to hunt and fish on his family's land. That ranch was always part of who he was.
While in Highmore he met his future wife, Patricia "Pat" Faulstich and they were married October 27, 1963 at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Highmore, SD. It was after the wedding they settled in Madison, SD where Jerry was employed at East River Electric Cooperative until his retirement in 1999.
In those years Jerry continued his education and in 1968 was awarded an Associates Degree as an Electrical Engineering Technician. He also held 7 different positions during his 38 years of employment while at East River.
Jerry had a lifelong commitment to keeping himself in good physical condition. He was a dedicated runner and was a fixture running through the streets of Madison. When weather permitted Pat was on her bike not far behind him. He had an early fascination with martial arts and eventually turned that into an advanced level black belt in traditional JKA karate. He also taught an accredited class at the local university which gave him the opportunity to work with young people and pass along his love of karate.
Jerry was a lifetime member of the NRA and avid shooter. Whether it was in the field cleaning up his kids' missed birds or turning clay birds to powder, a firearm was part of his person from early childhood.
He enjoyed fishing, and what started as a hobby cleaning fishing reels for his friends turned into a business and in 1971 JL Reel Service was formed. His business started local and thanks in part to a website, he was soon fielding emails and phone calls from literally all over the world.
Jerry loved his family the best he knew how. He was a husband, father, athlete, sportsman, coach, scout leader (all 3 of his sons earned the Eagle Scout Award which was an immense source of pride for him), teacher, writer, mentor, board and commission member, joke teller, and if he heard your childhood nickname, it was your name for life. He will be missed by those who knew and loved him.
Jerry is survived by his wife Patricia; sons Doug of Sioux Falls, SD, Scott (Suzanne) of Ankeny, IA, and Mark (Brenda) of Decatur, NE; grandchildren Nic and his mother Anna, Jack, Andrew, Lydia and Sierra.
He was preceded in death by his parents Ronald and Katherine and an infant brother James Robert.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Izaak Walton League in Madison, SD.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.ellsworthfh.com.