June 12, 2013 in Obituaries

Obituary: Heitstuman, Walter C.

 


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HEITSTUMAN, Walter C. July 24, 1918 Died June 9, 2013 Walter was born in Uniontown, Washington to Frank and Helen (Schoenberg) Heitstuman. He was the youngest of 4 children, and attended St Boniface school through the eighth grade. He was an alter boy at St Boniface church and must have been proud of that fact since he mentioned it often. The family had owned various business’s in Uniontown. First there was the saloon, which was followed by the hardware store and the hotel. The depression was hard on them in the small town so they loaded up the hardware store and moved to the Spokane Valley in 1933 where grandpa then opened Millwood Hardware. Walter graduated from West Valley High School in 1937 and instead of going to work with his father and brother at the hardware store; he went to work for W. P. Fuller and Company selling builders hardware. He was drafted into the army in June of 1942 and found himself in the Army Air Corps as a maintenance mechanic. He passed both the mechanical and the electrical courses with fairly high marks which is an absolute mystery to his family and those that knew him well. You see the mechanical aptitude gene in dad was not very big. He actually was scared to work on electrical stuff. He never really talked much about his time in the Army, in fact there really was only 3 stories that we heard enough times to remember. He would tell us that he was part of the group that opened Fairfield-Suisun airfield in California where he was first stationed. He was then transferred to Hickam Field in Hawaii where he achieved the rank of Tech Sergeant by the end of the war. Over the years we learned that he had the final say as to whether a plane could fly or not. There really were only two stories that he would tell and both happened near the end of the war. The first had to do with the grounding of a general’s plane. Seems the general had a whole lot of stars and was in route to a very important meeting. The general was not happy with dad at the grounding of his plane. Dad’s crew got the plane repaired and in the air in time for the general to make the meeting. The general thanked dad personally for making it happen which I think dad was very proud of. Not long after that a highly top secret transport came in which he had to approve for the long flight overseas. He always suspected that plane was transporting one of “the bombs” that were dropped on Japan. Dad had met mom at West Valley High School and before leaving for Hawaii they were married in Los Angles CA where mom had relocated with her family. Mom remained in LA while dad was in Hawaii and after the war they came back to Spokane and purchased a small house and big lot in Hillyard. That house was added onto more than once as the family grew. There are many fond memories of that big yard and of the many summer barbecues dad and mom would have. Whether it was the gang from Spokane Hardware, their longtime neighbors, or the aunts and uncles each summer had a few barbecues. After the war dad went back to work for Fuller’s. When Fuller’s was absorbed and shutdown by Hunts foods in the early 60’s, he tried a few other companies trying to find a good fit eventually landing at Spokane Hardware in the contract hardware division, where he spent the rest of his career. There are many commercial buildings around the Northwest that have doors and hardware supplied by Spokane Hardware because of dad. After he retired he and mom made several trips traveling to Europe and around the USA. He was an avid gardener in the summer and did some woodworking in his small basement shop in the winter. His specialty was small wooden boxes for crayons, which every niece and nephew got as well as any child needing a box for their crayons. When he ran out of nieces, nephews, neighbors and friends to give them to he started donating several each year to Toys for Tots, along with a new box of crayons and a color book. When the last of dad’s siblings passed away, he made the comment that he wanted to outlive them all by age. His biggest goal was to outlive his mother, who was 93 when she died. You did it dad! He was preceded in death by his father, mother, sisters Alta and Ora, brother Maurice and his wife of 59 years Elizabeth (Betty). He is survived by his daughter Susan Gordon (Rick), son David, (Cindy) and granddaughter Samantha, Susan’s stepdaughter Dawn, her children Courtney and Stacey and their children, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. A rosary will be held Thursday, June 13 at 7:00 PM at Hennessey - Smith Funeral Home. Funeral Mass will be held on Friday, June 14, at 11:00 AM at St. Patrick Catholic Church. We would like to thank the staff at Royal Park Care Center for their care of dad as well as their support and compassion. We also want to thank Hospice of Spokane for their help and support these past few weeks. In lieu of flowers please donate to Morning Star Boys Ranch (3621 S. Fancher Rd. Spokane, WA 99223) or St. Patrick’s Catholic School (2706 E. Queen, Spokane, WA 99217) in memory of dad. Please visit Walter’s online memorial at www.hennesseyfuneralhomes.com, and leave a message of condolence. Arrangements have been entrusted to:

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