Jack D. Heiden, 84, died Wednesday, February 28, 2018, in Madison Wisconsin, a city he loved and took pride in for all of the 65 years he lived there. Jack leaves behind his wife of 60 years, Nancy, his son Eric Heiden and daughter Elizabeth Heiden Reid, and five grandchildren who loved and admired him: Connor and Zoe Heiden from Park City; Garrett, Carl and Joanne Reid from California and points farther flung. Jack was the last of his siblings; his brothers George and Frank and his sister Betty all died before him.
Jack was born July 10, 1933, and grew up in Milwaukee, the youngest son of an industrial arts teacher from whom he absorbed a lifelong love of working with his hands. Jack's skilled hands made things and repaired things for as long as he was able. Jack fixed bones and tissues as a way to help many thousands of patients, but he also repaired lamps and rowing shells, bikes, and tires and wooden skis and shoes. If TV Lenny hadn't given away so many free ten-speed bicycles, Jack wouldn't have had to rescue and repair so many bikes from the dumpsters around town. Jack could be found most evenings in the same battered leather shoes he had worn for decades, and he treasured and rode his ancient Rudge three-speed bike as much as his beloved road racing bikes.
Jack was talented and hardworking, but a humble man. In life, he could not be importuned to highlight his own accomplishments, but his passing frees the rest of us to do so. Jack was a smoke-jumper and a railroad man, an orthopedic surgeon and a Big 10 champion fencer, a youth soccer coach and a masters rowing coach and a gracious man. Ever the enthusiast, Jack learned to bike race when his son did and learned to cross-country ski alongside his daughter, becoming masters national champion in road bike racing and one of the best master skiers in the Midwest. He rowed singles and a double with his wife and eights with the Mendota Rowing Club, and learned to roll a kayak and navigate a sailboard. Jack taught himself archery and tennis, swatting tennis balls across the net with his daughter as she refined her skills. He learned to play hockey when his son was playing and spent years volunteering on the bench. He took his kids and their friends on canoe trips to the Boundary Waters, reveling in fishing, paddling and portaging, telling campfire stories all the while even tolerating mosquitoes. He was a happy man while accompanying his wife Nancy on birdwatching trips, paddling, hiking and biking the trails of Wisconsin.
Later in life, Jack bought a used biathlon rifle and earned his redbook certification in biathlon. As the son of an industrial arts teacher he felt the symbiosis of wood and steel in a biathlon rifle, and admiring its use in snow, he tried to master the skill that it demands. Mastery eluded him, but his granddaughter adopted the old rifle, named it in his honor and carried it forward with distinction. Jack's fading memory left him unable to remember his old rifle, whether his children had won athletic medals, or eventually even his grandchildren, but his joy in hearing about his family and friends was undimmed, each time anew. And that, more than anything else, captures the Jack Heiden that his family admired and loved.
A life richly lived is too large to convey in a brief history or anecdotes. Age distills each of us down to our essence, one that we hope is worthy. As darkness took him into the deep, Jack Heiden kept his joy and enthusiasm and his pleasure in simple things, and especially in the good fortune of others; similarly, his joy in equal partnership with a small floppy dog named Einstein was palpable. Mixed with our sadness at his passing is our admiration; it is our fervent hope that our love and admiration will help him along on his journey to the heaven he earned, but did not believe in.
Jack will be returned to the earth April 21st in a private burial at the Natural Path Sanctuary on Spring Rose Road, carried to rest in a handmade casket by the family who loved him. A reception honoring Jack's life will be held following the burial, from 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM Saturday, April 21st at the University of Wisconsin's Pyle Center Alumni Lounge, 702 Langdon Street. Those who wish to honor Jack are encouraged to contribute to one of the causes Jack believed in, or perhaps to ride their oldest bike along Willow Drive Lakeshore Path amidst the trees, the lake, the sky and the bustling people.
Thoughts or stories can be submitted here, or mailed to a family member; causes Jack believed in included the International Crane Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.
Jack's family would like to offer deepest thanks to the staff at Covenant Oaks at Oakwood, and to the angels in waiting from Agrace Hospice. As we mourn the dead it is too easy to forget the attentiveness and kindness that softens life's sunset.
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With happy memories of times together at Sigma Phi, I extend sincere condolences to Nancy and the family. He was a man of great character and accomplishment.
Dear Nancy, Beth and Eric, Sending heartfelt condolences on the loss of Jack. I was very sadden when Carole told me of his passing this morning. I've never forgotten what a kind, inspirational man he was and I hope that all the wonderful memories provide a bit of comfort to your families. With love,
Hello Eric and Beth, I am sorry for the loss of your dad. I remember him skating on the frozen Lake, or down at Vilas when we practiced with the Madison Speed Skating Club. He was always upbeat and encouraging. He excelled in so many areas and had a humble spirit. I hope all the wonderful memories continue to encourage you. Kelly Lunda Sampson
Dear Beth and Eric- our hearts are with yours as you celebrate your father and his exceptional story and the world you shared. Elaine Greenwald Napp
Jack and I go back to Cub Scouts, middle and high school and then on to UW Madison. We both fenced. Jack went into orthopedic medicine and I went to him for aches and pains. He always deferred to exercise and natural healing rather than drugs or surgery...which I found confusing...especially when he declined to do a knee replacement in favor of exercise. His reason will last in memory for a long time..."John, at our age we frequently cause more harm with surgery than we solve. Jack and I share a mutual care for the mission of the Crane Foundation. My wife, Marj, and I have made a memorial donation in Jack's name.
John Weingandt, April 16, 2018
Nancy, Eric and Beth, I am so sorry for your loss. Doc as your entire family are life long friends of our entire family. I had the honor of playing on youth soccer teams under his coaching. I am glad that I saw him about 10 years ago at the Carole Cox reunion at Shorewood Elementary. He was as always gracious and so pleasant to chat with. I was surprised and sorry to see him at Oak Wood memory care as Dad's neighbor. It is such a hard thing to watch such a brilliant person go through that at the end of life. He and your entire family will always be in out thoughts. Howard Reddan
Nancy, Beth and Eric - my heartfelt thoughts are with you. Whenever I came by your active home in college and saw Jack, or when he came to one of our soccer games, or would field one of my many goofy questions, he always provided an upbeat smile, insightful response, and showed genuine interest. It was fun having him stay with us in Cambridge once when re rowed in the Head of the Charles. I recall him fondly as an exceptionally savvy, diligent, resourceful and enthusiastic person. He inspired me and countless others, I am sure, to be better, while respecting the world around them.
Dear Nancy, Eric, and Beth. This is Helen Crawford. I have fond memories of the time being your backyard neighbor. Long ago I migrated to northern California (Nevada City) but I will always have fond memories of my time in Village of Shorewood Hills, made sweeter by the presence of your family. My condolences.
Beth and Eric—
I’m so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. He was always so kind whenever I saw him at your home or at the clinic. Life hands us many challenges to get through, may his memory give you peace.
My condolences to Eric, Beth and Nancy. I met Jack and Nancy during the time that I played with Eric on the UW Madison Soccer team. In the last several years, I often said "hello" to Jack as I visited my friend and former UW Soccer Coach, Bill Reddan, at Covenant Oaks as they lived next to each other. It always made me feel good that Jack and Bill, who had been friends for years, were still close even though it had become difficult for both to navigate through their final years. Respectfully, Rob "Bernie" Bernstein
Training with Beth and Eric and the Holum gang we hung out at the Heiden house many times over my skating years. Jack was always there to help us with training or fixing our aching joints! Reading this Obituary brought back memories for me and I hope your memories of Jack heal your hearts!
A friend had experienced a "botched" shoulder surgery performed by a family friend creating an awkward situation. Dr.Heiden examined him and discovered a sponge had been left in; Dr. Heiden did the surgery free of charge, just asking that the "friend of the family" not be sued. We were and are forever grateful to him for doing this act of charity and healing yet another patient. RIP Dr. Heiden. ( i loved skating on the Heiden skating pond when I lived in Shorewood Hills. Mary-Beth Kuester
My very sincere condolences to Nancy, Eric, Beth and all the family on your loss. I came into my acquaintance with Jack through my father, Dr. Milfred Cunningham, a fellow orthopedic surgeon (who also passed away this February, at age 86), as well as through my husband, Neil Robinson, who grew up playing hockey in front of Art and Oli's place (and getting up to occasional teenage hijinks) with Eric. In later years we would often see Jack in the summer, rowing past in the early morning stillness that you only find out on the lake, in winter whizzing by with Nancy on their speed skates. He was truly larger than life. A talented and caring man.
Jack, what a wonderful guy. A quick smile every time you met up w/ him; whether eating a pasty somewhere in the U.P., out on the trail, biking by (you had to be fast), or helping to celebrate someone else's accomplishments. My father (Henrik) had the pleasure of teaching him (Autopsy Path?) at UW School of Med. early in his career and he could never get over what a kind human being he was.
I knew Jack a little bit from the Voyageurs. He was invariably gracious even when I lost his name tag.
In 7th grade I fell off a (racing) TV cart and cut my Achille's tendon in half. It was a very serious situation, but Dr. Heiden was always extremely friendly and kind, and I wasn't as scared as I probably should have been. Dr. Heiden told my parents that he'd read about a new operation, and he wanted to try it on me. Otherwise, I'd probably limp and never be able to run. The operation was a complete success, and I often think of him when I'm running, and always feel very grateful. RIP Dr. Heiden, and thank you! My sympathy goes out to the Heiden-Reid family. --Becky Harth
My sympathy goes to this family,especially to dear Nancy.
As many others say below, Jack was a kind, energetic, and inquisitive man. He was a great role model for us all. He gave gentle advice. We'll all miss him.
I knew Jack as a friend, fellow oarsman, and physician. He was a terrific person.
I embraced his "let nature take it's course" approach to medicine, the notion that there is a lot of healing wisdom in our DNA. I can remember him, with a twinkle in his eye, questioning the practice of always icing injuries, noting "people have gotten along well for millennia at 98.6." Or, when he eschewed having his knee scoped because he wanted "to retain the full meniscal volume." I can remember when I injured a meniscus about 10 years ago. Talking about aging, I said "Jack, you didn't tell me what was going to happen in my 60s." He smiled and said "And I'm not going to tell you what's going to happen in your 70s."
He was a consummate athlete and a bright and dedicated physician. I remember Nancy talking about how diligent he was in practicing his profession, falling asleep at night while reading journals to keep abreast of the latest medical advancements. And, his achievements as a cyclist and rower, the latter sport having been taken up in middle age, were extraordinary.
But, my overriding memories of Jack are of someone who embodied the best qualities of humankind-caring, hard working, humble, a lifelong learner, and a guy with a gentle and very clever sense of humor. His passing is a great loss.
I remember Jack as a kind man when I was around 11-12 years old when I was playing youth hockey in Madison, specifically on the West Side Flyers All Star team. I remember when he made my goalie mask by applying gauze/medical cast material to my face to create the mold. He always had a smile and good word to say. Many blessings to you Dr. Heiden. John Egan
Jack was an amazing character. Couple of my personal memories include Jack providing in-depth, spot on technical rowing advice while rowing behind me, getting fired up when his old man's boat (average age was 70 or so) that I coxed passed a 20 something men's boat in a head race, riding around town on his old, 3 speed bike, staying at youth hostels when he went to rowing regattas despite being able to afford much more comfortable accommodations as a successful orthopedic surgeon. Jack was one of a kind. He is already missed.
Jack was gracious, humble, enthusiastic, hard-working, patient, intelligent and good-natured; words are not enough. To see his daughter making his casket search for you tube B7oDs-KWsqE. Some photos at (remove spaces in url ) pagehost.org /jackheiden. E mail rememberingjackheiden "at" reidclan.org remembering to say who is sending the email :).
Probably the most eloquent obituary I've ever read. Sincere condolences for your loss of such a great man. Jay Fruehling
As a young boy, I was taken to watch the US world team trials. Jack came over to us, introduced himself and spent quite some time going over all aspects of speed skating.... All while we were watching and cheering for his kids. I was hooked!!! Such a nice man and proud father. John Nelson
Jack made a lasting impression on me as well as many others. Helped to shape my rowing. One hell of a man. Will never be forgotten. Beth, nice job, made me weep, hope you do not have to practice your new found skill too often. Casey O'Keefe
A wonderful man who taught me (in a boat) some things about pride and humility; and how well those two things can go together.
- Al Gunther
Sincere condolences to all of you Heidens and Reid- Heidens from the Atkins families
Thoughts and prayers to you, Nancy, and all the family. Sal and I are in Tucson until April 1. Just want you to know we are thinking of you at this time of sadness.
Our deep condolences to Nancy and the Heiden family. Jack was a beloved member of the rowing community and will always be remembered for his commitment, discipline, humor, and willingness to mentor others. We have much to thank him for-he will be missed but always in our hearts.
Cayte and Carter
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