John Gilbert Heemstra, age 93, of Yankton, South Dakota, died Wednesday, May 14, 2014, at Avera Sister James Care Center in Yankton.
Funeral services will be 10:30 AM on Thursday, May 22, 2014, at Christ Episcopal Church in Yankton, South Dakota with Reverend James Pearson officiating. Burial will be in Westlawn Cemetery in Orange City, Iowa with military honors provided by the Pressman-Kosters American Legion Post No. 329. Visitation is from 6:00 to 8:00 PM on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at the Wintz & Ray Funeral Home in Yankton with a prayer service at 7:00 PM. Visitation will resume one hour prior to the funeral at the church on Thursday.
Pallbearers are John's grandsons: Benjamin Heemstra and Bryan Highland; great grandson, Tyler Highland; son-in-law, Mike Kirchgasler; nephew, Timothy Heemstra; and son, John J. Heemstra.
John Gilbert Heemstra was born January 14, 1921 in Pella, Iowa to Jacob and Hannah (Barge) Heemstra. He grew up on the campus of Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa where his father was the first college president from 1928 until 1951. John maintained a connection with NW College throughout his life and enjoyed attending many scholarship luncheons and events on-campus where he had the opportunity to meet with students. He was a graduate of Northwestern Academy (1939) and Northwestern Junior College (1941) in Orange City, Iowa. He received his Bachelors of Science Degree from the University of South Dakota in 1944. He served in the U.S. Army from 1944-1946 as a physical conditioning instructor with sick and wounded soldiers at Ft. Story VA. .Following his honorable discharge, he was employed in Pierre, South Dakota as a bacteriologist with the SD Department of Health. He married Jean McGregor on November 21, 1946 in Pierre, where they lived until moving to Vermillion, South Dakota where he completed his Master's Degree in Bacteriology. He began working as the Senior Bacteriologist for the SD State Health Laboratory and as an Instructor of Microbiology at the USD School of Medicine.
In 1953, John was hired by the Yankton Clinic where he was employed for the next 36 years. He was a clinical Chemist and Laboratory Director from 1953-1982, and the Supervisor of Data Processing until his retirement in 1989. He was active with the American Association of Clinical Chemists (AACC), was elected to their National Council and named as an AACC member emeritus.
John was an active member of numerous organizations during his life including Masons, Kiwanis, Golden K, Yankton Community Forum, The American Legion and Boy Scouts of American (BSA). He made numerous camping and canoeing trips as a leader and Scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troup 180 and helped establish the Lewis & Clark Historical Canoe Trail from Pickstown, South Dakota to Sioux City, Iowa in 1974. He was awarded the BSA Silver Beaver Award in 1973 for his dedication to Scouting. Among his many interests were geology, fossil hunting, sailing, traveling, and hiking/volksmarching. He completed the 10 kilometer Volksmarch to the top of the Crazy Horse Monument when he was 80 years old.
Survivors include his four children: Kris (Mike) Kirchgasler of Hot Springs, South Dakota; John J. (Joan) Heemstra of Mitchell, South Dakota; Betsy (Tom) Drulard of Lakewood, Colorado; and Virginia McGregor of Fountain Hills, Arizona; five grandchildren: Bryan (Kim) Highland, Jean Highland, Benjamin Heemstra, Beth (John) Chappel, and Dru Larson; three great grandchildren: Skye, Tyler, and Megan Highland; great great granddaughter Eden Rose Strike; brother, Raymond (Maxine) Heemstra of Bartlesville, Oklahoma; nephew, Timothy (Linda) Heemstra of Claremore, Oklahoma; and niece, Laura (Stephan) Matthews of Bedford, Texas.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Jean; two brothers: Frank Heemstra and Howard Heemstra; and sister-in-law, Marion Heemstra.
Memorials may be directed to the Jean Heemstra Scholarship at Northwester College, 101 7th St. SW, Orange City, IA 51041.
Messages will be reviewed and posted within 1 business day.
So sorry for your loss. We used to call on John for help in our business and he was always there for us.
Such a wonderful man!
Don and Ava tucker
I am so sorry for your loss. I will miss his fun and charming manner. He was such a joy to be around
I knew John as lab director when we were both employed by the Yankton Clinic. John was a devoted employee and a real asset to the Clinic. I enjoyed working with him. He was always current in his field and was committed to seeing that YC stayed current both in laboratory issues and data processing. Rest in peace John.
Marques Rhoades, MD
So sorry for your loss. He was very thoughtful person
Kris and family, I am sorry to hear of your loss, but what a full life he lived.
So sorry for your loss. John was just the best neighbor!
Bill amd Judy Utley
I am sorry for you your loss. John was a good friend with whom I had many great conversations and experiences. We shared an interest in computers and we even attended a computer show in Las Vegas several years ago. John was 30 years older than I, but I was barely able to keep up with him as we toured the show over several days. I will miss his visits and the lively conversations we shared.
John was so helpful to me as a Scout Leader. He was someone I could always turn to for advice and help.
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