Joanne Kathryn Heckel

Joanne Kathryn Heckel
Date of Birth: November 10, 1931
Died on: August 13, 2019

Joanne Kathryn Heckel, 87, of Sioux Falls, SD, formerly of Aberdeen, SD, died Tuesday, August 13, at Avera Prince of Peace, Sioux Falls.

Joanne was born November 10, 1931, in Mound City, SD, to Raymond and Eileen Kightlinger McKittrick. She was the second of eight children. Her family moved to Andover, SD, and later to Langford, SD, where she graduated from high school. Joanne would always refer to the family farm south of Andover as “home.”

She began her career as a telephone operator with Bell Telephone in Mound City and in Eureka, SD, where she met her future husband. The two corresponded when he entered the service, and in November 1952, Joanne traveled to Anchorage, AK and married Palmer Heckel at Elmendorf Air Force Base. They lived in Anchorage until returning to South Dakota the following year. They established their home and raised their four children in Aberdeen.

Joanne continued with Bell Telephone in Aberdeen and was later employed at the federal government switchboard as “operator one” until her retirement in 1986. Joanne and Palmer operated Heckel’s Used Furniture until 1996 and she also worked part time for Weight Watchers. Joanne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 and in 2009, she and Palmer moved to Sioux Falls.

Joanne was a member of the First Reformed Church of Aberdeen and the church Ladies Aid, the VFW Auxiliary, NARFE, and the Eagles and Moose organizations. She volunteered with PTA, Special Olympics events, danced with residents at retirement communities and regularly provided barbeque hamburger to the VFW for Saturday night bingo. She took pride in placing flags on the veteran’s graves during patriotic holidays.

Besides her full-time job and working in the shop, Joanne stayed busy. She had a talented green thumb, evident in the “greenhouse” in her dining room and her enormous vegetable and flower gardens and apple trees, making good use of the harvest by canning and baking. Joanne appreciated old furniture and refinished many pieces from their shop. She loved being outdoors—walking, swinging, cross-country skiing, camping, and even found pleasure in outside chores like painting and cleaning windows. Joanne loved animals and enjoyed the companionship of several pets throughout her life.

On Saturday nights, Joanne and Palmer got their workout on the dance floor at the VFW or the Eagles—polkas, waltzes and two-steps and enjoying the comradery with their long-time friends they referred to as “the gang.” Always willing to try something new, Joanne took tap-dancing lessons when she was 60-something.

A fun-loving but no-nonsense mom and grandma, Joanne set the bar high with her strong work ethic and expectations of her kids. When her kids had kids of their own, she loved cuddling the newborns, and as they grew, her version of spoiling them was just having simple fun—dancing in the kitchen, creating crafts, sledding, swimming, going on rides at the fair, visiting Storybook Land and exploring.

And in her spare time, Joanne read—books, the newspaper and magazines. She rarely watched TV, but instead preferred listening to the radio—Garrison Keillor, the Minnesota Twins and Paul Harvey were among her favorites. She loved history and visiting museums and few people know that she participated in Declam in high school (reading poetry/oral interpretation), and her animated reading of “The Night Before Christmas” was always a family favorite.

Joanne loved her extended family and looked forward to reunions and was often in charge of bringing the Norsky ball. She reminisced about her life growing up during the depression with various family and friends coming to stay and work on the farm. Times were tough but their family was rich in hospitality. One of Joanne’s favorite mottos, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” provided inspiration through the difficult times in her life.

Joanne is survived by her husband, Palmer; four children: Peggy (Steve) Robbins of Eldora, IA; Thomas (Cindy) Heckel, Tammy (Lydell) Larson and Paul (Lenora) Heckel, all of Sioux Falls; 11 grandchildren: Stephanie (Jay) Boeding, Erin (Doug) Campbell, Nick (Karla) Robbins, Amanda (Dan) McCurley, Robert (Jennifer) Heckel, Scott (Melissa) Heckel, Kristin (Andrew) Dwire, Michelle (Josh) Benck, Kathryne (Jake) Studer, Layne Larson (Kaci Meddings), and Emma Heckel; 19 great-grandchildren: Xavier and Leo Boeding, Molly and Nora Campbell, Avalyn, Elaina, Danielle and Kathryn Robbins, Teigen Heckel, Phoenix Heckel, Avery and Adeline Heckel, Camden and Adriana Studer, Mabel and Harriet McCurley, Connor and Abel Dwire and Evelyn Benck; four sisters: Kay (Phil) Slama of Theodora, AL, Patsy (Bob) Hill, of St. Paul, MN; Rae Ann Marpe of Hopkins, MN; Nancy Granica of Luck, WI; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.

Joanne was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, Harold McKittrick, and her sisters, Carol Jean Witter and Sharon Birchem.

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