Gailen Wilbur Heidzig was born to Wilbur and Lorene (Hobleman) Heidzig on June 18, 1939. He was also loved and cared for by his grandparents, Henry and Mary Heidzig. His youth was spent on the farm roaming the old rock quarry and creek beds, chasing critters, and letting his little mind forget his cares. He loved the farm life, especially the cattle and horses. Gailen was baptized and confirmed at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Auburn and was a life-long member. He was always very proud that he could say he rode to Omaha with his dad and grandpa when they got the lumber for the new church.
After graduating from Auburn High School in 1957, Gailen took a bus ride to California to make his way in the world. For a short time, he worked at General Motors and from that time forward he was a Chevy man. When the layoffs started, Gailen decided to join the Air Force. While in the Air Force, he was trained as an electrician. He loved sharing his stories of working on missile sites and riding in the re-fuelers. He took many family members and friends to the Sac Museum to show and share his many adventures. His one regret was that he did not make it his career. His last year in the service was spent at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, and he was honorably discharged in 1962.
Gailen was married in 1959, and to this marriage was born four children: Pamela, Doreen, Nicol, and Chad. The couple would later divorce.
During those first years after his service, Gailen began a new career working construction and learning to be a crane operator. Gailen never drove past a construction site that he didn’t have to stop and check out what size crane they were using for the job. In later years, Gailen went back to his electrical training and worked for Nebraska Public Power District, until retiring in 2005. Throughout all his years of employment, Gailen also ranched, raising Brangus cattle and we must never forget his baby, Old General the bull, his pride and joy. He was an all-around guy, he worked hard for his family, and he played hard, but there was never a doubt that he loved his children. When he spoke their names, it was always with pride and love.
In 1985, a new life began. A stop at Wheeler Inn on a Saturday night began a love that would last beyond forever. Trips to Colorado would follow from that chance meeting and carried on into marriage and a blended family. Her maiden name was Phyllis Oakley and they had known each other since school days, but he always told her he could remember her and her friend at the theatre with their short shorts and skinny legs, “You were way too young for me” he would always say with his ornery grin. Gailen was a unique man and to know him was to love him, he held many secrets and hurt inside him but always tried to be the best he could.
After a short time in Texas, Gailen and Phyllis moved back to their hometown of Auburn to raise their two youngest sons, Chad and Dan. In 1999, they built their dream home in Johnson, and Gailen finally got to build the shop that he had always wanted.
Gailen LOVED his truck and old cars. Mechanics came natural to him and with his shop he could finally buy those old rust buckets and turn them in to things of beauty. He belonged to the Nemaha Valley Street Rods club and every moment that he was not working or attending family activities you could find him in his shop with his new dream and new project. Gailen and Phyllis loved to hop in those little beauties and take off with car buddies and head to a car show big and small. Gailen walked away with more trophies than he wanted because he was truly in it for the satisfaction of seeing one more old car put back on the road.
Gailen and Phyllis’s family began with Gailen’s four children and Phyllis’s six children plus four grandchildren. At his passing they were blessed with 22 grandchildren and will be reaching number 30 in great-grandchildren in March 2022. They loved each of them dearly and loved attending as many family functions as possible, sometimes going separate ways so the grandkids would know they were there and oh so proud of each and every one of them and their accomplishments.
Gailen was a very spiritual man and loved the Lord. In his last days on his dementia journey, he would say many times he was ready to go meet his Lord. On October 2, after a fall he became bed-ridden and on October 6, 2021, he went home. With the help of the wonderful hospice staff, he was able to be in his home surrounded by his loving family. He has left a wonderful legacy for all who loved him. He will be with each of us until we meet again.
Gailen is survived by his wife Phyllis Oakley Heidzig; children Pamela Heidzig, Doreen (Tom) Gulizia, Nicol Heidzig, Chad (Danielle) Heidzig; step-children Darren Jorgensen, Kym (Cristina) Jorgensen, Helen (Greg) Debus, Shelly (Harvey) Pierce, Sonia (Richard) Black, Dr. Dan (Amy) Jorgensen; 22 grandchildren; 29 great-grandchildren +1 on the way; brother Robert (Lora) Heidzig; nieces, nephews, cousins, and many, many friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, grandparents, and sister Barbara Jean Daniels.
A memorial service will be Wednesday, October 13, 10:00 a.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Auburn. Visitation will be on Tuesday at Hemmingsen Funeral Home in Auburn from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. with family greeting friends from 6:00 to 8:00. Burial of ashes will take place in St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery at Auburn.
Memorials suggested to St. Paul Lutheran Church or American Legion Post #23 of Auburn.