Lawrence was born the seventh of nine children to Henry and Katherine Grentz Heil on April 11, 1920, at Colome, South Dakota. Lawrence’s parents emigrated from Russia with the German Seventh Day Adventist movement and when Lawrence began school, he spoke German as his first language. Back then, education was secondary to helping on the family farm, so Lawrence attended school through elementary grades.
After working as a teenager on construction for the Fort Peck Dam in northeast Montana, the highest of six major dams along the Missouri River, Lawrence moved with his family to Filer, Idaho. There, at a church social, he met the love of his life, LaVaun Irene Schmechel. They married July 21, 1940, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on the corner of 3rd Ave. N and 3rd. St. North in Twin Falls and began their life together in a little white cottage on the Snake River where Lawrence worked at the Gourley Orchard.
World War II ensued resulting in frequent moves while Lawrence searched for employment. Lawrence was talented with his hands and instantly became a carpenter when they relocated to Richmond, California, bought a 1941 Chevrolet, a 16 foot trailer house and lived beside the railroad tracks. Soon, they moved to Santa Maria, California, where Lawrence found work hanging sheetrock. It was there in January 1942, that Julia Ann was born. As the war came to an end, the building industry slowed, prompting a move to Medford, Oregon, where they bought 40 acres and Lawrence found employment for a short time as a logger.
However, Idaho beckoned and they returned where Lawrence rented a farm from LaVaun’s father southwest of Twin Falls, bought 40 Holstein calves, and later rented more land south of Kimberly. In August, 1943, LaVaun was expecting another baby, so they rode the “Galloping Goose” train into Twin Falls to see the doctor. The baby, Gerald Arthur lived only 3 ½ weeks. Larry Chester was born in August 1944 and the family moved to Wendell where Lawrence became a potato farmer and grew spuds in the sandy soil. There, a fourth baby, Curtis Ray was still-born in February, 1946.
That spring of 1946, Lawrence discovered Roseworth and the opportunity to farm in this remote area in southwestern Twin Falls County. Initially, he rented 80 acres, subsequently buying a farm which he sold to Lloyd Davis the next year. The Heils rented land from James Arness and in 1950 purchased the John Smith farm which eventually became Heil Land & Livestock, Inc. According to LaVaun, this fulfilled Lawrence’s dream of “building an empire”.
The Heil’s son and daughter and 6 granddaughters grew up in Roseworth learning and living the ranching way of life. Lawrence ran a band of 3000 sheep for 15 years later switching to 1200 head of cattle. The ranch included 11,000 deeded acres purchased from the Worleys, 40 thousand of acres of BLM ground , a feedlot and 750 acres of farm ground. Lawrence and his son, Larry, grazed cattle on Marshall Butte, Coonskin Butte, Signal Butte, and Black Butte. After many 3 day cattle drives, with all the family mounted on horses and Heidi on a motorcycle, they summer pastured up on Pole Creek overlooking Nevada’s Ruby Valley. While still ranching, Lawrence built a cinderblock house and drilled the well known as “Heil Well” close to Marshall Butte in Owyhee County. In 1989, Lawrence sold the ranch to the Henslees of Hagerman and sold the farm to his son, Larry. The farm remained in the Heil family until 2006.
Lawrence was a longtime member of the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association, receiving the award of “Grassman of the Year” and being inducted into the Idaho Livestock Hall of Fame. Lawrence was also honored for his contribution to the Cedar Mesa Watershed Project when Senator Frank Church and two Greyhound bus loads of people came to the Heil ranch to celebrate the completion of the project.
The Heils spent their winters in Arizona, Mexico, Desert Hot Springs, California and retired on the Oregon Coast, where Lawrence fulfilled his “second dream” of becoming a deep sea fisherman ultimately owning several commercial fishing boats including the first fiberglass boat he named “Roseworth”. Thereafter, he owned the Roseworth II and in 1972 had the Roseworth III built. In 1973, he had the “Apache” built in Florida, traded for the Apache II and finally the Apache III which he fished on and captained out of Garibaldi, Oregon until 2009 when retirement began at the age of 89.
In 2009, Lawrence moved back to Twin Falls to be with his wife and family living in an assisted living with LaVaun for a couple years and a few months ago retired to a care center where he spent his final days with his son, Larry and dog, Skeeter faithfully visiting every few days.
Lawrence lived to cross that bar every day and feel the ocean breezes. As we say farewell for now, we celebrate Lawrence’s life knowing he fulfilled and lived his dreams.
Lawrence was preceded in death by his parents; siblings: Pauline, Ida, Rudy, Bill, Doris, Odelia, Esther and Edward; two babies, Gerald and Curtis, and a son-in-law, Jim Clark.
He is survived by his wife, LaVaun of Twin Falls and the legacy they created; daughter, Julia Sullivan, Jerome; son, Larry (Marcella) Heil, Gooding, Id, six granddaughters: Terri (John) Clark Kaminski, Bainbridge Island, Wash; Francie (Kevin) Clark Lenane, Hailey, Id; Amie Clark, Meridian, Id; Stacee Heil Parke, Gooding, Id; Shellee (Darren) Heil Shaw, Cardston, Alberta, Ca; Heidi Heil, Twin Falls, Id; Great Grandchildren: Cameron and Kendall Kaminski, Bainbridge Island, Wash; Taylor Lenane, Hailey, Id; Ryan Cardoza, Meridian, Id; Gunnar and Kaden Fehrer, Meridian, Id; Justin, Jared and Jett Parke, Gooding, Id; Tacee and Jade Shaw, Cardston, Alberta, Ca; Bradee and Laramee Laredo Heil, Twin Falls, Id; Great Great Grandson: Trystin Cardoza, Meridian, Id.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations in Lawrence’s name to Twin Falls Optimist Club Childhood Cancer Campaign or the Twin Falls Senior Center. They can be mailed to or dropped off at Serenity Funeral Chapel, 502, 2nd. Ave North, Twin Falls, Id. 83301
A viewing/visitation will be held from 3 pm until 8 pm, Monday, January 7, 2013, at Serenity Life Celebration Center at 502 2nd Ave. North, Twin Falls. A Celebration of Life will be at 11:00 AM Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at the Hilltop Seventh Day Adventist Church in Twin Falls with Pastor Dwayne Kluchesky and Mike Bulkley officiating. Burial will follow at Sunset Memorial Park, Twin Falls. Family and friends are invited to gather for lunch following the service at Serenity Life Celebration Center. Services are under the direction of Lawrence’s granddaughter, Heidi Heil and Serenity Funeral Chapel, Twin Falls.
The family gratefully acknowledges the kind care Lawrence received at Woodstone Retirement Center and loving support from the staff and caregivers at Lincoln County Care Center in Shoshone, Id.