Lyle Calvin Heck was born May 22, 1927 on the family farm in Gilmanton, Buffalo County, WI to Oscar August Heck and Mae Moy Heck. He died July 24, 2017 at his home in Strum, WI. He was “a poet, and musician and an opera singer, a serious student of philosophy and history, and a self-professed observer of the mundane.”
Lyle attended Devany Country School and graduated in 1944 from Mondovi High School, Mondovi, WI. He was baptized and confirmed at Zion Lutheran Church, Mondovi. Lyle married Ellen Marie Strand of Strum, WI on June 19, 1948 at West Beef River Lutheran Church renamed Immanuel Lutheran Church, Strum. To this union were born five daughters.
In 1944 Lyle attended University of Wisconsin, Madison, but returned to the family dairy farm to help the war effort with food production during WWII. He then attended Wisconsin State Teachers College now University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. During this time, he played his sax in local swing bands including Lyle Calvin and his Orchestra: Music Sweet N’ Swingy and Johnny Mills. In 1950, Lyle and Ellen moved to California where Lyle attended the University of Redlands, Redlands, CA and received his Bachelor of Music Degree in 1952. After graduation, they moved to Clintonville, WI where Lyle taught music in the public schools. In 1954, they moved back to California, settled in the South Bay of Los Angeles and joined The Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Redondo Beach, CA that year. In Los Angeles, he taught music at Gompers Jr. High School from 1954-1965. After earning a Master of Science Degree in Counseling from the University of Southern California, he worked as a guidance counselor at Rolling Hills High School from 1966 until his retirement in 1990. After school hours, he taught driver’s ed to his high school students or drove tanker trucks for Texaco Oil. In 1980, Lyle and Ellen had begun spending each summer at their “vacation” home in Wisconsin, eventually moving there permanently in 2005. In Strum, Lyle enjoyed many endeavors: writing poetry, reading, developing an organic garden, working as summer help on local farms, and joining the Eleva-Strum Lion’s Club, the Sons of Norway, and the ILC sanctuary choir.
He was choirmaster for The Lutheran Church of the Resurrection for 28 years and cantor at Temple Beth El in San Pedro, CA for several years. Lyle was a chorister in the Roger Wagner Chorale and a featured soloist on their 1957 national tour, was a Western Region Metropolitan Opera Finalist, a member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, founder and music director of the Baroque Consortium Orchestra and Chorale from 1972-1974, founder and conductor of the Motet Chamber Singers from 1974-1977, and sang with several opera companies in the Los Angeles Area. Since retirement, he played saxophone and clarinet with several Big Bands including Gabriel’s Horn, Nova Troubadours, and Compton College Community Band with Everett Turner; High Steppers with Lewis Holt; Opus One with Chester Whitmore; and with Armond Blaise, all in California. In Wisconsin, he played with the Conrad Johns Band, Troppo, Liscio, and most recently 7 Swing with Cathy and Jeff Reitz. He was a prolific composer and arranger of choral and instrumental music whose works have been published by Augsburg-Fortress and AMSI (now Lorenz). He was an active jazz musician to the end.
Lyle is survived by his wife of 69 years, Ellen, and five daughters: Sara Heck, Strum, WI; Martha Bauman (John), Torrance, CA; Mary Spryer (Richard), Eau Claire, WI; Anna McCue (Pete), Lynwood, WA; and Elizabeth Plunkett (Kurt), Lake Stevens, WA; Eleven grandchildren: Ruth Hanley (Jim) and Anna Vallefuoco (Marc), Andrew Bauman, Signe Sapien (Trevor), Peter Spryer, Kirsten Spryer, Rachel McCue, Amy Jones (Zack), Peter McCue (Meaghan), Gary Plunkett, and Colleen Plunkett; Seven great-grandchildren: Ava, Clara, Marcello, Tyson, Charlotte, Lucy, and Sadie; Brothers: Bob Heck (Barbara McDermott), Alger Heck (Lana), Rev. Ortie Heck (Carol); Nieces and nephews: David Strand (Ceceile), Phyllis Strand, Julie Strand Burke (Andy), Rev. Erik Strand (Deborah), Karin Strand (Guy Caridi), Kristin Rupert (Dave), Kathy Strand (Paul Carlson), Beth Strand (Blake Bowie), Ellen Anderson (Wells), Rev. Dr. Barbara Heck (Rob Nelson), David Heck (Sherri), Becky Crawford (John), Karen Heck (Nancy Krimendahl), Allan Heck (Susan), LeeAnn Heck, Cary Heck, and Renee Heck as well as many grand nieces and nephews and countless friends. Lyle was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Glenn, and in-laws: Margie Heck, Margaret Heck, Bob and Doris Strand, and Jack and Rev. Ann Strand.
At his passing in the early morning hours, Lyle was surrounded by his wife and daughters who held his hands while story-telling, praying, reading scripture, and singing him to heaven with love. The family especially gives thanks for their Priceless caregiver, Lou Ann Klein, for her tireless support and love.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Strum, WI. Friends and family are invited to a light lunch immediately following the service in the Parish Hall. There will be a private interment at the West Beef River Cemetery. The family would like to thank Kjentvet-Smith Funeral Home, Eleva and Rev. Lowell Bolstad and Rev. Erik Strand for their caring ministry.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: Compton College Music Technology Trust - Account# 7674 c/o Harvey Estrada P.O. Box 264, Lakewood, CA 90714. Online condolences may be shared at www.kjentvet-smithfuneralhome.com.
“Be Happy: Get some Jazz in your Heart”