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John Heneman, pillar of Warroad community, dies at 93

WARROAD, Minn.--They called him Red Leader, for the reddish hair he sported in younger days, and in this community on the southwest shore of Lake of the Woods, John Heneman was a leader.

David "Izzy" Marvin, John "Red Leader" Heneman and Roderick "Rhody" Heneman all of Warroad, Minn., shared a moment in June 2014 on the occasion of the elder Heneman's 90th birthday. A pillar of the Warroad community, Heneman died Tuesday at age 93. (Photo courtesy of David Marvin)
David "Izzy" Marvin, John "Red Leader" Heneman and Roderick "Rhody" Heneman all of Warroad, Minn., shared a moment in June 2014 on the occasion of the elder Heneman's 90th birthday. A pillar of the Warroad community, Heneman died Tuesday at age 93. (Photo courtesy of David Marvin)

WARROAD, Minn.-They called him Red Leader, for the reddish hair he sported in younger days, and in this community on the southwest shore of Lake of the Woods, John Heneman was a leader.

And a Legend.

Heneman, a longtime banker, hockey booster and pillar of the Warroad community, died Tuesday at home. He was 93.

"I'm telling you, he was like a Santa Claus; he was so charitable," said Dale Telle of Warroad, a neighbor and friend. "He was just so generous and such an unbelievable man.

"The community really lost a good one."

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John Heneman was born June 13, 1924 in Warroad. He graduated from high school in Warroad and attended Hamline University in St. Paul beginning in 1942, according to the Hamline University website. His time at Hamline was interrupted by a three-year stint in Burma, where he served in the U.S. Army during World War II, the website states. He returned to Hamline in 1946 and graduated in 1949.

Heneman and his family in 1967 established the Harold M. Heneman Athletic Scholarship at Hamline in memory of John's father, a Hamline track star who graduated in 1915, according to the website.

As a hockey booster, Heneman was a key part of the Warroad Lakers hockey team with lifelong friend Cal Marvin for all of its 50 years, said Warren Strandell of East Grand Forks, who wrote a chapter about Heneman in his book, "Cal and the Lakers: Winning Under Two Flags." Heneman also participated in numerous U.S. and Canadian hockey organizations.

"They grew up across the street from each other on Warroad's 'southside,' " Strandell said in an email. "As kids, they played pickup hockey games on the Warroad River or on the street, often using frozen horse droppings as pucks."

Following in his father's footsteps, Heneman in 1968 became president of Security State Bank in Warroad, a position he held until 2006 when his son, Roderick, became president, according to the bank's website. Heneman continued to serve as chairman of the board, the website states.

'Legends' gatherings

Heneman was part of a Warroad coffee klatch, "the Legends," that holds court weekday mornings at the the local Dairy Queen and Saturday mornings at the Marvin Home Center. Heneman was hurt in a fall this past winter leaving a Warroad hockey game, and Tuesday morning gatherings at the Heneman house became part of the coffee routine.

Their final get-together was Tuesday, June 13, Heneman's 93rd birthday.

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Heneman's son, Roderick-Rhody to everyone who knows him-and daughter, Heather Streiff, said Cal Marvin coined the Red Leader nickname. Heneman occasionally drove launch for Marvin's resort and launch service back in the day, and "Red Leader" was his CB handle.

Rhody says one of his father's daily routines was to drive to the point by the lake before work, at lunch and after work.

"His comment was always to make sure nobody stole the lake from Warroad," Rhody joked.

Heneman also knew how to play up the rivalry with neighboring Roseau, Minn., 20 miles to the west, and as the story goes, once said the only time he'd stop in Roseau was if he had to stop for a red light.

"Warroad was important to him, and he was a huge supporter," Streiff said. "He raised us to love Warroad-his kids and his grandkids.

"It's wonderful to know how many people cared about him."

Common themes

Heneman's personality and generosity were common themes among those who knew him.

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"He was one of the pillars of the community-the banking, the employment, the finance and the farming," Warroad Mayor Bob Marvin said. "In a rural community, those all mean a lot. He was a big supporter of many, many groups, whether it's a church group or whether it's a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, whether it was high school sports, and you can go through all of them. He was a supporter of that.

"Whenever there was a fundraiser or anything going on, he was one of the first ones to step out to help out, kind of kick it off," Marvin added. "He will be missed, no doubt.

"He's just one of those good, solid citizens of the community, and you wish there was more of them."

Heneman is survived by his wife, Dinah; daughter Heather (Gordon) Streiff of Warroad; son Roderick (Laurie), Warroad; son Paul (Karrie), Alamo, Calif.; and 12 grandchildren. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Zion Lutheran Church in Warroad, with a public visitation set for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at Helgeson Funeral Home in Warroad.

Related Topics: WARROAD
Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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