Leo Robert Heer, age 90, of Rexburg, Madison County, Idaho, passed away from mesothelioma on Friday, April 10, 2020, at home surrounded by loving family.
Leo was born on May 26, 1929, in American Falls, ID, to John and Caroline (Bartholoma) Heer and grew up in Aberdeen. His first nine years were spent living in the back half of The Aberdeen Times building on Main Street, where his father owned, edited and published Aberdeen’s first newspaper.
It was during this time in second grade that Leo met a cute classmate named Valene Taggart. This was a fortuitous moment in his life. He enjoyed these years spending time with his two brothers, Ray and Jim. In 1939, after a family decision was made to sell The Aberdeen Times, the family was invited to join in on the Bartholoma Brothers Ranch, farming a ranch located five miles south of Aberdeen. This provided a 10-year-old boy numerous new and exciting opportunities to be in charge of important responsibilities such as hitching the work horses for plowing, driving grain trucks to town, delivering sheep to Idaho Falls, milking cows, raising chickens, tending the orchard, driving tractors, shearing sheep and harvesting hay and spuds.
His proudest childhood accomplishment was when, at the age of 10, his grandfather offered to let him have any one of the numerous Ford Model T’s that were abandoned behind the barn if he could make it run. He quickly discovered the function of the induction coil, replaced it and had a never-ending supply of vehicles through his remaining school years. This experience led to one of his first official jobs as a school bus driver the last three years of high school.
His high school years brought Leo an entirely new set of opportunities to develop potential as he participated in football, basketball, baseball, track and field, a clarinetist in the band, school plays and musicals, class president and the occasional visit to the principal’s office for a modest amount of extracurricular fun. His interests expanded well beyond these activities as he developed a talent for hypnotism, which he utilized for many good causes throughout his life. His father introduced him to the art of magic as a youngster and he polished this talent at an early age and utilized it on a continuing basis throughout his life.
Leo was also mesmerized by flight and airplanes. At the age of 16, he approached the owner of the dirt strip airport in Aberdeen about taking lessons and obtained his pilot’s license. It is reported that at this time, a single-engine plane may have flown over the American Falls Dam and then under the railroad bridge in an effort to impress his friend since second grade (Valene Taggart) who was picnicking nearby with her family. This effort was successful and the two of them began dating through their junior and senior years.
After graduation, Leo headed to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho and Valene went to Idaho State College (University) in Pocatello. One year apart convinced the two of them that they were a better team when they were together and on June 20, 1948, they were married in Pocatello. After Leo joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their marriage was solemnized and the family was sealed in 1960 in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple.
Leo attended Coyne Electrical School in Chicago in 1949 and later that year returned to Idaho Falls for a job opportunity at the Idaho Starch Plant. 1950 brought a chance to work at the new undertaking on the Arco desert for Westinghouse at the National Reactor Testing Station where for 18 years, he honed and utilized his electrical and engineering skills in the nuclear industry. At this time, he qualified as Nuclear Plant Operating Engineer and trained numerous Navy personnel in the operation of nuclear vessels.
The family loved these early years as they lived in the blossoming community of Ammon, ID, with numerous friends on Avocet Drive and in the Ammon Second Ward. He was elected to the original city council of Ammon where he helped lay a sound foundation and city plan for law enforcement, parks, schools, swimming pool and infrastructure. In 1969, he accepted the challenge to enter the business and construction industry as part-owner and manager of Intermountain Block and Pipe. This occasioned a family move to Rexburg, ID, and that brought an end to the family moves.
Leo quickly adapted to the masonry business as he built IBP’s reputation in the valley and pioneered low pressure, steam cured pumice building blocks that resisted chipping and breakage. Slow winter months were remedied by adding alternative fuel and energy products such as acrylic septic tanks, wood furnaces and solar energy.
The residual effects of the 1976 Teton Dam Flood eventually brought an end to IBP and Leo embarked on his third and final career choice in the financial design industry. He would continue this career of service to the final days of his life as the oldest active and licensed agent for Mass Mutual Insurance. This was a job he cherished as he was able to assist hundreds of people to enjoy their retirement years with financial security.
Leo’s church service spanned decades as he faithfully fulfilled every calling he was offered including Stake Clerk, High Council, Scouting, Class Teacher and most recently Temple Ordinance Worker. His legacy of service led him to study out and encounter endless solutions to life’s health challenges. This was in turn, shared with all who cared to know and the phone or doorbell would ring at any hour of day or night as people sought him out for his wisdom and expertise. This advice was freely given at no charge to all comers and only served to enlarge his massive network of friends and acquaintances. All of this was accomplished while wearing his trademark short sleeve two-pocket shirts, clip-on tie and his favorite color blue.
Leo is survived by: his wife, Valene Taggart Heer; children, Garth (Judy Wagner, deceased), Shelley Moser, Vicki (Richard) Schneider, Crystal Heer, John (Carrie Martinez), Douglas (Julie England) and Patrice (Knud) Mogensen; and his brother, James (Marcia Noble). His life was also blessed with 30 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren. Leo was preceded in death by his parents, brother Ray (Clara Bickford), and granddaughter Angela Moser Burton.
Burial will be in the Aberdeen Cemetery and a memorial service will be held in Leo’s honor at a later date. Condolences may be sent to www.flammfh.com.
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