Monday, March 16, 2020

• Richard Heil Memorial Service

This morning, while maintaining distances per the governor's "request" to self isolate, a medium sized crowd of friends and loved ones attended the memorial service for longtime Wildomar champion Richard Heil. 
I've asked Kristen Lloyd if she'd be able to pinch hit for me today... and supply some photos and a write up so we could share the info this week. Many thanks to her. ☺

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Today, I am filling in as cub reporter for Joseph. We both attended the celebration of life for Richard Heil but he was asked to provide a video for the family. So, although he was front and center for the event, he is taking the backseat for this article and is busy working on editing video and writing another compelling “rap”.  

I digress, back to Richard. Richard Heil was a long-time resident and very active community member of Wildomar. Richard passed away earlier this year on January 18th, 2020. It took a while to organize family members travel and plan exactly what he had time to write down in his final wishes.
One of the collages at the memorial.
Today’s celebration of life was planned well before the outbreak of the “Covid19” and it was a shame that social distancing and executive orders kept many away. Sharon understood but it was hard to see an audience that wasn’t fully representative of all those who held such high regard and respect for Richard. If it weren’t for the state of affairs the room would have maxed the capacity with “Standing Room Only.”

The event was one of the first that blended a military procession and service with an ELK formal tribute. The honor detail performed a ceremony that included the most beautiful rendition of taps on a bugle that I have ever heard and the folding and presentation of the American flag to the next of kin. Sharon also received three bullets in a velvet bag that were fired in honor of his time in service from Arlington Cemetery Honor Brigade.
Sharon and RIchard Heil.
I had never attended an ELK formal tribute and it is filled with ceremonial rites and readings that touched my heart. They honor the time Richard served as an ELK member, which he took an oath to embody the principles and purpose of; four cardinal virtues: Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; and to cultivate good fellowship. Richard was all of these things and more. A true ELK.

City Council member Ben Benoit represented the mayor, the other council members and city staff that were not able to attend. 

Ben spoke back to when he was a junior council member that both Richard and Sharon were his benchmark to know if the city was moving in a positive direction. Sharon would sit and knit in the front row at council meetings and if things were going well, she continued to knit. If occasion arose that things weren’t sounding quite right, she would put her needles down. And, when things were starting to turn, Richard would put his hand on hers and assure her that everything would turn out okay. I am certain that she is missing that blessed assurance hand pat given today’s uneasiness.

There were two speakers that praised his service with the VFW and American Legion as a member, veteran, and fellow countryman. It was also my privilege to speak a few words on behalf of just one of the many organizations that he was a part of. 
Missed by his family and friends.
I was there to speak on behalf of the Historical Society, which was just many of the organizations he was an active member of for so many years. But you can’t  start in the middle of the story. My husband and I have been lucky to serve alongside Sharon and Richard throughout the years. Richard’s acts of service molded my husband and I as community members and citizens on this big blue planet.

We first moved here in 2001 and John met Sharon and Richard at a MAC meeting. (Municipal Advisory Committee – meetings that moved action with the county prior to cityhood.) Soon after that John got involved with re-opening parks and they both joined him at the meetings. They were encouraging, willing to say yes, and showed up.

They too thought it was so important for the children to have a place to play. They were selfless in their efforts. They put their actions behind their beliefs. Always attending meetings, functions, helping set-up and tear down, volunteering to serve where needed.

Their yesses were yesses. Their character was exemplary, something that we try to achieve. We’re always learning and maturing and it was so wonderful to have a couple that we could mirror.

And yes, of course we were able to open parks with their help.

They initiated the contact between the HOPE pantry and Grace Point Nazarene church in 2008 at a community event. Because of that introduction, Grace Point began to provide a location locally for the citizens of Wildomar to pick up fresh produce and pantry goods. This was during one of the most difficult downturns in the economy for the world.

I am proud to say that this program has been going strong since then and now there are other locations throughout this area that also are part of that fresh food program. This program has helped hundreds in our local community make it a little further along each month. The introduction has exponential growth and stories of grace and mercy that we will never know. 
Some of the flowers at the memorial service.
John joined the ELKS, with Richard’s help. He worked with him on projects with the VFW, and the American Legion to name just a few of the organizations that Richard was involved in. But he couldn’t keep up. Richard was the energizer rabbit. Giving where he could and to his fullest potential.

Lending a hand to others is their acts of service and we are forever grateful for their example and friendship. We never really knew what it was like to have one without the other, they worked as a well-oiled machine.

Richard would start a conversation, Sharon would add or Sharon would start a conversation and Richard would add his two cents, I mean memory of events.

It was a pleasure working with them helping to preserve the history of Wildomar. They offered up their ancient treasures to Wildomar Elementary History Day presentation for many years. The kids would be so curious as to what a dial phone was, an adding machine, a typewriter, a homemade kite. The awe and wonder in their faces truly inspired us. It was a highlight each year that we were able to participate.

Richard would tell of museums he went to on the trips that Sharon planned. Their ideas were boundless on what the historical society should strive for. We’re working on it but without their help it’s been a turtle’s pace.

I think that his love of history came from his own past and service in the military that lent to preserving the American way. He had strong feelings in for protecting personal beliefs and freedoms. He continued to dedicate his life to veterans and practiced acts of gratitude with both the VFW and American Legion in many chapters and locations throughout the county.

He is missed by many and I know the community will also miss his ethics, character, and shining example. In today’s turbulent times it would have been nice to have him on your side.

There are three things in this life: Faith, Hope, and Love.

The greatest of these is love and it was so apparent to all of us….
His love for Sharon…
his family…
his community… 
and God.

He was able to spend his last days writing his wishes down. The celebration of life was his and planned to perfection, no detail too small or left undone. Jan Ebel sang two beautiful songs. The ELKS Chaplain ended the formal ceremony with, “He is home and we will see him soon.” 
Fred Mlakar

The celebration ended with the accordionist, Fred Mlakar playing a few of their favorite polka tunes while we enjoyed breaking bread together.

He and Sharon made plans to travel, visit museums, and places of interest with him by her side. Seat belted and ready for adventures in his American flag themed urn.
I would count myself lucky to visit with her and hear about those adventures.

If you are missing a loved one, know that whatever you do today, tomorrow and each day that follows that you carry them with you….love remains!


Kristan Lloyd and her family have been part of the community since 2001. Her day job is as an Administrative Management Specialist working with public water systems. She is also a Grief Recovery  Specialist with a purpose to create potential for a better tomorrow.

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