Editor’s Note: Rev. Dr. Jakob Heckert, a longtime professor of theology at Concordia Ann Arbor, was called to his heavenly home on Jan. 16, 2018, at the age of 87. His daughter, Paula Isakson, offered the following remembrance of her father in the weeks after his passing.
My father was a humble man. If you did not ask him, he would not tell you that he had an SDM, a THD, an MA in counseling, a master’s in linguistics, plus an honorary doctorate from Concordia University Chicago. He also would not share with you up until one year before he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer that he had been on staff at Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hartland, Michigan, for approximately 20 years, preaching one time a month on Sundays, periodically preaching on Wednesday night, and leading the Bible Study that night. He also visited shut-ins and even taught German to the grade school students at Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran School. He would not want to make a big deal of his preaching at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Toledo, Ohio, once a month or preaching at the German services at St. Lorenz in Frankenmuth and Historic Trinity in Detroit. He never let others know that he was deeply involved in his home congregation, St. Paul Ann Arbor, where he once served as president of the congregation and later board of elders. In his later years, he led and served on an evangelism group to reach the lost, helped to organize a group of men to help move furniture one time a week, called Friends In Deed. He also led a men’s morning bible study at 6 a.m. on Friday mornings, and faithfully called members of St. Paul on their birthdays.
He was a humble man. He never would let you know that he served as circuit visitor for the Michigan District and was mentor to many pastors in his circuit. You would never know that he had been a big influence in the lives of so many pastors to whom he taught all levels of Greek, Hebrew, the Biblical Languages, Hebrew Poetry, and German, along with the Bible courses that included intensive Old Testament and New Testament at Concordia University Ann Arbor, where he was once dean of students.
If you did not ask, he would not let you know that after serving three congregations as pastor (Immanuel Wentzville, Missouri; Bethlehem in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; and Good Shepherd in Oshkosh, Wisconsin) that he had been called to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as a professor when the “walk-out” happened.
If you did not know him, you would see a person who was a most kind and sincere man, soft-hearted and gentle in every way. He had a twinkle in his big blue eyes and always a kind word to say to everyone that came across his path. He was quite industrious and liked to keep active, not only in the church but outside as well. He maintained a garden with a variety of vegetables and grew grapes like his parents had done when he was a child. He delighted in keeping his lawn impeccable, mowing it diligently one time a week so that it looked like a lush green carpet surrounding his home. He was a beekeeper for many years, checking on his bees every day to be sure that they had what they needed to thrive. He watered the flowers and picked raspberries from the raspberry bushes making sure he saved a big bowl for his wife, Ilona, so that she had a sweet treat when she came home. He loved his family passionately and delighted in seeing his children and grandchildren when they came to visit. He loved spending time with them and gave his all, praying for his children and their families that they might know the Lord.
When he contracted cancer at first he was elated because of the closeness he felt to his Heavenly Father. He could not wait to see what people the Lord might bring into his life during his treatment, and greeted each one enthusiastically with love and care. He always asked how others were doing when they wanted to see how he has coping. When the days got hard, he leaned harder into his Lord, recalling that the Lord had him in His two hands. He learned how to live within the limits of life that the Lord gave him, learning how to ask for Him when he was so used to always doing everything on his own. During his last days, when the struggle was so hard and the pain so intense, he held on to his faith in his creator. When he became restless, the only thing that would bring him peace was when he heard the Gospel read to him. He would fall into a peaceful slumber after mouthing along the words he heard, repeating the sweet words of the Word of God.
In the end he did not want to leave his family, but he was ready to go. When he drew his last breath he had been asleep for a few days in a coma, but he had finally come to a place of peace. If you knew my dad, you may be sad, but know that he still has an impact on us all when we hear his voice and are reminded of our times together. If you did not know him, ask those that did, they will share their experiences with you and you might get a taste of the man, Rev. Dr. Jakob K. Heckert.
— Rachel Thoms served on Concordia University's Strategic Communications team from 2015-2022. Any inquiries about this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.