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Friends Recall West Bloomington Advocate Who 'Made Us Better People'

Rick Heiser
Illinois State University
In this 2013 photo, Rick Heiser speaks to Illinois State scholarship recipients of the Grabil-Homan Community Peace Prize.

A man who served west Bloomington and the larger Twin City community for decades has died.
Rick Heiser was a founding member of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project, where he helped to launch Bloomington's bicycle co-op. He trained volunteers to repair bicycles for others to ride as one of his many charitable causes.

Heiser died Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was 70.

Bloomington alderman Karen Schmidt volunteered with Heiser for years in the WBRP.

“When he was around us, he just made us better people,” Schmidt said. “You always felt yourself uplifted and that was just the core of who he was. I think that’s a gift he is going to keep giving to us.”

Heiser also gave his time to the WBRP’s Tool Library and community gardens.

Schmidt said Heiser made the world a better place.

“Rick was so consistently and deeply kind and generous, it was something in his DNA,” Schmidt said. “He was always celebrating other people.”

Heiser was honored with Illinois State University’s Grabill-Homan Community Peace Prize in 2013 for launching the bike sharing program. 

John Freese of Normal has known Rick and his wife Susan since the Heisers moved to the community 40 years ago. They meet at the John Paul II Catholic Newman Center at Illinois State University.

Freese, a member of Normal First United Methodist Church, said he and the Heisers developed a closer relationship over the last 20 years through liturgy planning they did for a group they dubbed the “Sunday Night Group.” It’s a group of about 20-25 people from various churches who meet once a month.

“Rick was a man of great humility who really shunned the limelight and didn’t seek public praise but he quietly worked behind the scenes in this community in a number of places,” Freese said.

Freese said Heiser had a servant’s heart.

“When I think of Rick Heiser the mantra I think about it is someone who wanted to be a service to his community and the world around him,” Freese said. “He lived that.”

Heiser’s family has planned a private burial service in Trenton on December 11. Normal First United Methodist Church will host a celebration of Heiser’s life on Dec. 14 at 1 p.m.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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