Richard “Dick” Don Heimovics Shawnee Mission, KS - March 15, 1941 to May 17, 2023
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Dick Heimovics. He was a devoted husband, a loving father, a cherished grandfather, and dear friend and mentor to many. Dick left this world on May 17, 2023, leaving behind a legacy of love, strength, and perseverance. Dick touched the lives of all who had the pleasure of knowing him, and his loss is deeply felt by many.
Dick was born in Kansas City, MO at Menorah Hospital, as the middle child of John Francis Heimovics and Margaret Katherine (Peterson) Heimovics. Alongside siblings Jack and Joni, Dick grew up in KCK, Enterprise and Prairie Village, where he grew to be a proud Eagle Scout, excellent student, and all-around athletic star. He graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School in 1959, where he was elected as its first senior class president. He later joined the NROTC program at Dartmouth College, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in history, fell in love with the game of rugby, and earned the dubious honor of being fraternity brothers with a writer of Animal House.
Dick graduated from Dartmouth in the spring of 1963, immediately following the Cuban Missile Crisis. To avert becoming nuclear collateral, he maneuvered his way westward and was stationed in San Diego. He began his tours on the USS Arnold J. Isbell and completed his tours on USS Linde McCormick. His initial deployment was during peacetime, however by time he left, he was swimming in Vietnam War waters. “Heimo”, as he was called in the Navy, was known as a fun-loving shipmate who particularly enjoyed liberty (time off of the boat). He was a commissioned officer in charge of people, technologies, communications, and machines. His duties were the operations, backup, redundancy, and surviving catastrophic failures. Dick completed his military tours in 1967, just as the world began to quiver in the wake of the war’s complexities. He devoted himself to furthering his education, acquiring an MPA from UMKC in 1969 and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1975. Amidst his studies, he met the love of his life, fellow Ph.D student Cathy Piercy, and the two married in 1972. They welcomed their two daughters Meg (1976) and Sarah (1978) to the world, and the four settled in Fairway, Kansas where Dick resided until 2016.
It was here that Dick and Cathy achieved their life’s greatest dream - they raised their two daughters to be intelligent, independent, resilient, and compassionate human beings. They raised them to be socially, culturally and environmentally aware. They raised them to be critical-thinking, construct-challenging, advocates, who pursue knowledge and justice. They raised them to be feminists, who were never afraid to ask questions, speak their mind, or be the only woman in the room. Dick and Cathy smile from above, knowing they raised their girls who can carry this legacy forward, and each of them do, with every day of their lives.
Dick and Cathy were also collaborators in their professional lives: both served as faculty members of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), at times even occupying offices next door to one another. Dick held the position of Professor of Organizational Behavior, was the Director of Executive Education, and the driving force behind the development of the Executive MBA program. He also served as President of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration in 1987, and was deeply involved with the Edgar Snow Foundation and Chinese exchange endeavors throughout his career. During his time at UMKC, he mentored countless students and contributed to the vast scholarly literature related to nonprofit management, public administration, and organizational behavior. Having educated many future local business, government, and nonprofit leaders, Dick’s work in UMKC classrooms has left an indelible mark on the heart and mind of Kansas City. His retirement in September 2005 marked the end of his tenure as the esteemed Aaron Levitt Professor of Human Relations. Sadly, within three years of retirement, dementia would begin to rear its ugly head, and his life as we all knew it, came to a slow and gut-wrenching end.
Between all of Dick’s accomplishments and before his decline, he was a man of many travels. He loved the mountains, with their humbling geological timescales, countless false summits, and this-is-where-I-want-to-spend eternity views. He loved the long, summer road trips the family would take in their 1982 Volkswagen Westfalia, criss-crossing the continental U.S. in a diesel-powered, Paul Simon soundtracked, air-cooled, Vanagon whose peak speed hit a grueling 52 mph, and where he routinely confronted the reality that his expertise in organizational behavior rarely applied to the complexities of family dynamics. He also loved the art, culture and history of southeast Asia, where he returned on pilgrimage throughout his life.
Dick was perhaps most alive and at peace when he was following his thirst for exploring the wild and untouched places of the world. He was perennially drawn to the backcountry where he loved to wade through glacier-fed streams and lakes in search of trout and would wander the hinterlands with extended family and friends. The wilderness was where his eyes would shine the brightest and he would revel in the divinity of such things as the bloom of a purple aster and the flicker of a mayfly that was tethered to his fly rod which – at times – seemed to be an extension of his own hand. Standing in the shadows of 10,000 foot granite peaks in the Wind River Range of Wyoming was where Dick found meaning in the awesome beauty of nature and mystery of existence. It was there, where Dick was his most true and authentic self. And it is at Grave Lake in The Winds where he wishes that his ashes be spread.
Dick is survived by his cherished daughters, Meg (Jeff Kumin) from Lenexa, Kansas and Sarah (Eric Lyngaas) from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also survived by his four delightful grandchildren: Eli (19, with whom he had an exceptional bond), Jonna (17), Aria (15) (Kumin family), and Delcie (11) (Lyngaas family); his sister Joan Ferris (Bruce), sister-in-law Nancy Pound, and three brothers-in-law: Dan (Nancy), Bill (Mary Lizar), and Pat Piercy; as well as his enduring Norwegian exchange son, Amund Krogh. Preceding him in death are his beloved wife, Catherine Ann Piercy, his brother Jack, and his parents John and Margaret Heimovics.
He also leaves behind a subscription to ever-present Kansas City Star, who, along two very well-worn dictionaries, served as Dick’s most cherished companions throughout the last fourteen years of his life. He truly loved the Star… even long after he could read its words or turn its pages, he would shuffle it through his fingers, like he had a rosary in his hand. Dick died with dignity and respect, and we offer our heartfelt gratitude to staff at Village Shalom for their exceptional and compassionate care throughout his battle with dementia. We are also deeply indebted to Novus Hospice, who brought him comfort and peace in the final months of his life.
Dick was a man full of words, wit, wonder and will. Oh, that indomitable and infuriating will! His force left an impact on every life that crossed his path, and his wisdom will be forever etched in the minds of those who listened. His legacy remains alive within us, guiding us, inspiring us, and reminding us to live each day with adventure, passion, love, and devotion. Dick believed travel has the power to broaden perspectives and transform lives, and that these experiences should be available to everyone regardless of life circumstances. In honor of Dick’s love for access to education, travel and the great outdoors, please consider making a memorial contribution to either of the two funds:
We invite all those who were touched by Dick’s life to join us in a celebration of his remarkable journey. Services will be held at Johnson County Funeral Chapel & Memorial Gardens on Monday, June 26. Visitation begins at 12pm, and services at 1pm. Please join us to cherish the memories we shared and find comfort in the legacy of love he leaves behind.