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1924 Jimmie 2021

Jimmie Harmon Heft

April 2, 1924 — October 18, 2021

Jimmie Harmon Heft, aka Daddio, GI Jimmie, age 97, passed peacefully on October 18, 2021, in Topeka, Kansas. During his brief illness, his care was provided by his doting daughters and their husbands Suzanne (Stephen) and Desima (Steven), healthcare provider grandson Luke, and family friend/ nurse Jay M. in coordination with the caring Ascend Hospice team. Throughout his life, Jimmie was a caregiver to loved ones and inspired his family to do likewise. Jimmie was born on April 4, 1924, in Dodge City, Kansas to WWI Veteran and carpenter Albert Eli (Wix) and loving mother Mary Ethel Harmon Heft. He grew up during the Great Depression and came from humble beginnings. His father was often absent so Jimmie learned to drive at age 12. In grade and middle school, Jimmie worked at a grocery store, threw newspapers, gave wake-up calls to railroad conductors, and did various odd jobs while taking time to slip into a movie theater, soda shop, or social dance. He was scrappy, resourceful, industrious, savvy, and was well known for his sense of humor, orneriness, and train hopping. Jimmie attended Sunnyside Elementary School and Dodge City Junior and Senior High where he played sports and slyly carved his initials in the football stadium concrete. Jimmie pointed out his handiwork in 2001 at the final school closing ceremony and got a kick that his family had unwittingly walked by "J.H." for decades. Jimmie had a whirlwind romance with Lieutitia Mills after meeting her at the "Rat Race" Dance Club and within three months they were engaged. Three months later on July 12, 1943, the teens secretly eloped to Garden City, Kansas. After three short months of marriage, the young groom shipped out to war for three long years. Upon return, the happy couple enjoyed 69 years of ballroom and line dancing, fine dining, traveling the world, playing Bingo, going to the races, and creating memories with family and dear friends. His beloved Tish preceded him in death on February 28, 2013. Jimmie often crooned Nat King Cole's " Too Young" at weddings and anniversaries as a tribute to "young and lasting love". Jimmie was also preceded in death by his parents, sisters Mary Jane Cohn and Betty Jean Revel, sister-in-law Neva Grace Belt and mentors Uncle Bill and Aunt Bessie Lethem. Jimmie exemplified the Greatest Generation. As a teen, he worked with his father for the Corp of Engineers at airbases and fields in Kansas and Colorado before enlisting in the U.S. Army during WWII. He attended basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, which he revisited in 2016 at the age of 92 as a special guest and participated in training activities, interviews, and inspected the troops. Jimmie served in the Army Corp of Engineers in China, Burma, India (CBI) from 1943 to 1946, clearing jungles and building the Ledo Road to create a land supply route. He returned to the U.S. in a "bobbing sardine can" after contracting Malaria. He always heartedly greeted anyone with Indian heritage. Jimmie continued his service to America well into his 90's volunteering at the Topeka VA where he provided transport, songs, and jokes to "old soldiers". In 2012, Mr. Heft was nominated for the Honor Flight to Washington D.C. He enjoyed his trip with fellow veterans and high school student attendants so much he requested to return. At age 90, his daughters arranged for a memorable father/daughter trip back to D.C. with special U.S. Capitol, White House, and Arlington tours. After his passing and next to his favorite recliner, Mark Batterson's "Praying Circles Around Your Children" was found which Jimmie most likely picked up in D.C. while attending Community National Church before visiting the adjacent Ben's Chili Bowl. Mr. Heft was also an honoree at many veterans events at schools, parades, and the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in Abilene and met General Eisenhower's family. He enjoyed displaying his Presidential and Congressional birthday correspondence and military memorabilia. Jimmie's "unofficial" social media presence went public after a Veteran's Day post of him singing World War II Nazi fighting classic, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" garnered 200,000 likes and a marriage proposal. In 2019 at age 95, Jimmie's audience further expanded when he was asked to carry a red, white, and blue guitar on stage to Toby Keith, who saluted honored veterans' in song. Many thanks go to all who help facilitate these special memories. Jimmie was a member of VFW, Masonic Lodge, and The Sons of the American Revolution, with a heritage of service to America each generation since the Revolutionary War. He and his family experienced a full-circle moment at Ft. Riley (his Grandson's first duty station) while visiting the memorial for Camp Funston honoring the camp his father helped build. Jimmie's military legacy includes USAF Academy Cadet Great-Grandson Alex, USAF couple Matt and Keli, Army veteran nephew R.J., and Grandson James, whom Jimmie gave the Silver Dollar Salute at his commissioning ceremony, attended his Captain's Career Course graduation, and was anticipating his upcoming promotion to Army Major. Jimmie was a car guy and sang "King Of The Road" and other catchy tunes while driving America's roadways and getting his Kicks on Route 66. He was a proud owner/operator of a Phillips 66 Service Station and a race car. Jimmie sold automobiles for over 35 years and loved going to Kansas City to pick up new vehicles and to visit the historical stockyard district. He also invested in ranching and was a proud Ambassador for Dodge City Days Rodeo and enjoyed donning a top hat and driving a limo to help out a lifelong friend's business. Jimmie's wanderlust and spontaneity often led to family adventures (without reservations) including an impromptu Christmas road trip to Walt Disney World 50 years ago for the grand opening. He gave his family a "lengthy" two hours notice to finish laundry and pack. Jimmie was a self-made man and had a successful record of buying low and selling high almost anything including real estate, RV's, and livestock. He was notorious for selling family vehicles without notice, their new Mid-Century Modern home that was not on the market, and kiddingly almost sold his younger sister Betty to Bedouins in exchange for camels while touring Petra on horseback. Jimmie was a great provider and often lectured "Iwanna and Ineeda" that "Money does not grow on trees". As a family man, Jimmie made a confession of faith and was baptized. He was a member of the Win-a-Couple Class and Keenagers at First Christian Church "On Top of Boot Hill". His legacy is steeped in faith, family, and freedom. Jimmie and Lieutitia "retired" to the cottages at Fort Dodge that ironically his father did the original carpentry work. While at the Fort, Jimmie gardened by the river, fished, sorted mail and helped out at Sutter's General Store, assisted with community events, taught his grandsons to drive a golf cart, and drove a school bus for both USD 433 and Head Start while proudly maintained his CDL until almost age 90. In retirement, he drove his wife on countless trips to rattlesnake-infested cemeteries and dusty historical sites to research genealogy. He gave Tish the world, including a never-ending supply of ink for her printer. Jimmie was a fan of bargains, yard sales, and dollar stores. He was outed for putting yellow dollar store lotion in Clinique bottles thinking no one would notice. Under duress, he got "The Heck Out Of Dodge" and moved to Topeka, Kansas in 2005, where he made wonderful new friends at Rosehill, Atria, Bingo, Brookwood Covenant, and Town & Country Christian Church. At age 90, Jimmie begrudgingly began using the internet on his first laptop computer so he could read the Dodge City Daily Globe without delay and play solitaire. His singing, poetry, and toasts made for entertaining posts by his daughters on Facebook, which he simultaneously loved and baulked at. He considered Alexa his joke and music assistant. Jimmie was unforgettable and will be remembered as a sharp-dressed man's man with a twinkle in his eye, drinking coffee and eating glazed donuts while shooting the breeze or sipping a chocolate malt and leading the family ice "scream" cheer. Jimmie had a beautiful voice, loved music, and whistling, which along with his daily mile-long walks kept his lungs strong. His family will especially miss him singing the Good Morning Song and Happy Birthday. He was known for a firm grip on all remotes that generally were tuned to his favorite sporting event, old sitcoms, westerns, the local news, or game show. He loved rocking on his patio in the sunshine enjoying nature and reading his "Daily Bread" devotions as well as sitting by the fire, eating popcorn, and...As a proud Kansan, he took great pleasure in introducing friends to Boot Hill, The Garden of Eden, Dalton Gang Hideout, and The Big Well. He is survived by sister-in-law DelMae Holden and one sister, Helen Joan Heft, age 98, who also survived a childhood ride on the handlebars of Jimmie's bicycle over bumpy brick roads to and from her OUTPATIENT TONSILECTOMY. Jimmie dearly loved spending time and telling everyone about his accomplished grandchildren whom he is also survived by: School Principal/Administrator Michael and wife Andrea and their son Wilson, Commissioned Army Officer James and wife Elizibeth and their son Theo James, Heart Team Perfusionist Luke and wife Yesenia and their family Vanessa, Rodolfo, and Belen, step-grandchildren Honorable Judge Ann Marie and husband Derek and their children-Alex, Gabe, Kyle and Olivia, Surgical Nurse Cathie and her husband Les and their children-Lauryn, Contessa and Stella, and many nieces, nephews, and extended family whom he was a beloved father and grandfather figure. Jimmie was an Ambassador at Atria Hearthstone INDEPENDENT living where he played Bingo as often as possible, did Yoga, went on pie tasting and other fun excursions, danced, occasionally sang with County Swing Band, and taught exercise on the sly during COVID with his masked and vaxed friends. He enjoyed staying at his "Bachelor Pad" where he was not being reminded to drink more water or eat healthy by his boss lady daughters. His family would like to thank the Atria staff and residents for their kindness and friendship. At 97 years young, Jimmie had 20/20 vision, no hearing aids, had his own strong choppers, no joint replacements, and a good head of hair that needed frequent cutting. He often joked he would be leaving this world with all his own parts. He will be missed by young and old alike, but probably not by referees, telemarketers, or incompetent nincompoops as patience was not always his virtue. Jimmie was cremated. His memorial and burial with military honors will be held at Fort Dodge Veteran's Cemetery, date pending. He will be laid to rest next to his wife, fittingly reunited at their Home on the Range. Memorial contributions may be made to Topeka Chapter DAR earmarked for special veteran’s projects, Cookson Hills Children’s Home, HaitianChristianMissions.org or gvcm.org (affiliated with his Joplin family), or sent in care of Brennan-Mathena Funeral Home, 800 SW 6th Ave. Topeka, Kansas 66603. Online condolences and fond memories may be left at www.brennanmathenafh.com.
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