Lowdon Heller

  • Born: February 24, 1924
  • Died: May 28, 2016
  • Location: Ideal, South Dakota

Kotrba-Smith Funeral Home

Kotrba-Smith Funeral Home
101 Gerkin
Gregory, SD 57533

Tel. (605) 835-9111

Tribute & Message From The Family

Message From The Family

Thank you for your support during this difficult time. Please enhance this tribute to Lowdon by adding your memories and photos.

On February 24, 1924, at the Ideal, SD home of Charles and Dora (Bainbridge) Heller a baby boy was born. They named him Lowdon (a family sir name). Lowdon was the fifth child and had three sisters and four brothers.

At age four he started school at East Star Valley. Lowdon and his siblings walked four miles to the one room schoolhouse. A small chap, he would sit on the teacher's lap so that he could see the chalkboard. Lowdon continued his schooling in Ideal where he excelled in journalism and public speaking. He was in the choir, played piano, and could dribble a mean basketball. Lowdon graduated from Ideal High School in 1941.

Lowdon entered SDSU at Brookings and was there when World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1944. Lowdon learn how to fly his father's Aronka airplane as did siblings Wayne, Kenneth, Alva, and Melba. Flying proved to be very useful when he served as a gunner on a B24 bomber in the European Theater and was awarded the Air Medal. His buddies nicknamed him "Whitey" because of his very blonde hair. When World War II ended he used the GI Bill to get a degree. Lowdon began his teaching career in Winner and Witten. He was the principal at Spring Creek. He continued teaching in Kyle and Lead/Deadwood. While teaching he continued to own and operate the Shannon County News and direct at the Black Hills Playhouse.

In 1957 Lowdon was elected to the South Dakota State Legislature. He proudly served on the transportation committee introducing laws concerning roads and the state airplane. During his political career Lowdon was a delegate to the Presidential Convention in Miami supporting his close personal friend George McGovern.

Lowdon then took a job as head of the juvenile correction facility in Plankinton.

He returned to his beloved Tripp County. Lowdon was a true "jack of all trades" and "wore many hats" –sometimes three at a time and he wore them well. Real estate broker, insurance agent, and professional collector were some hats he wore. His heart was on the farm with his buffalo, cows, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, and horses. Pheasants, coyotes, and prairie dogs visited often. At age 90 he chopped ice and ventured out in the snow so his animals would have food and water. He planted his crops and was often seen riding his Moline tractor. The last few years he hired the farming done. Lowdon grew a big garden and was always experimenting with new seeds. He planted over 500 trees and grafted many hoping to discover a "perfect apple tree." His latest project was developing "white angus" so they wouldn't overheat. Lowdon and brother Wayne worked side by side on the farm for many years. Wayne passed away in 2012 and Lowdon continued to live and work on his home place.

He was a busy, hardworking man who made time for his friends and his activities. Lowdon played Santa to the community children and hosted pheasant, deer, and prairie dog hunters. Many fishermen enjoyed catching bass in his dam and visiting with Lowdon.

Although he didn't always have reliable transportation, he enjoyed traveling. His travels took him to Canada, Alaska, Wyoming, and Washington DC for the Veteran's Honor Flight. His niece in Florida looked forward to his visits and his last visit extended six months.

Lowdon enjoyed the auction. He hauled his "treasures" in one of the many cars he bought. "Never know when I need a spare car part" he would say.

Tripp County Rockhounds, weed board, township board, VFW, American Legion, Sunday School Secretary, Tripp County and South Dakota Historical Society, and Tripp County Democrats were part of his life.

He enjoyed mentoring youth and was very respected by the village youth. Elders referred to him as "Brother."

Lowdon was a "Brother" to many near and far. This was evident by the many people who would stop by to visit him, leaving with a history lesson about Lowdon's philosophy of life.

Lowdon was a true survivor and always had a plan B. Even when his home burned down, he had a plan to move to the Ideal School that had been remodeled. While in Florida, a tornado blew the roof off the schoolhouse. After losing two homes in less than a year, Lowdon moved to Elder Inn. Friends would take him out to check on his cows and to look over the country. He stayed in contact with family and friends via e-mail, telephone, and letters. Lowdon was very happy at Elder Inn.

Respecting the "Duty, Honor, Country" motto and wanting to recognize fellow veterans for their service and sacrifice, Lowdon was a driving force in building the Veteran's Wall at the Winner Courthouse. He wrote the program structure that is used at Winner Memorial Day Programs and was instrumental in the development of the Avenue of Flags at the Winner Cemetery.

Lowdon passed away May 28, 2016 at Avera Gregory Hospital at the age of 92.

We will miss his wry sense of humor, unending generosity, and genuine friendship. Lowdon lived life to the fullest. Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways on your four-wheeler, with one hand on the handlebar and the other one herding cattle, shouting, "Oh, what a ride!"

Going on before him were his parents Charles and Dora Heller, siblings Kenneth Heller, Wayne Heller, Alva Heller, Edward Heller (died as infant), and Cora Kaiser, brothers-in-law Earl Kaiser and Harry Owens, sister-in-law Katrina Heller, and nephews Kenneth Heller Jr. and Roland Kaiser.

Grateful for sharing his life are sisters Melba Veren, Gregory, SD and Dr. Marcella Owens, Valparaiso, IN; sisters-in-law Lois Heller, Winner, SD and Vivian Heller, Laramie, WY; nieces Alis Veren, Peg Heller, Pat Heller, Jude Heller, Lisa Odenbach, Carla Heller, Dana Gapter, Mary Ann Christensen, and Donna Beltz; nephews Mike Heller, Chuck Heller, Todd Heller, Terry Kaiser, and David Kaiser; and numerous cousins and double cousins.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Funeral services for Lowdon Heller were held Wednesday, June 1, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Ideal, SD with Pastor Bruce Miller officiating.

Music was provided by Lori Miller, pianist.

Linda Watson and Jill Amidon were in charge of registration.

Judy Lance and Eunice Sharer were flower attendants.

Casket Bearers were Mike Heller, Ronnie Willms, Roger Roosa, Lewis Bainbridge, Charlie Long Crow, Cody Amidon, Randy Odenbach, Edger James Matuska, and Vernell White Thunder.

Honorary Casket Bearers were all his deeply treasured family and friends.

Burial was in the Ideal Cemetery, Ideal, SD, with military honors by the Winner VFW, Winner American Legion, and the Army Military Honor.


Condolence & Memory Journal


Sorry to hear that Lowdon passed away, he was such an interesting and entertaining gentleman. My husband Tom introduced us to Lowdon-when we asked to go fishing with our children. I would see Lowdon off and on in the community and always enjoyed visiting with him. He will be missed by many I am sure. May the happy memories help you through this difficult time, and I hope the love of family and friends will help you now and later on as you need it. God Bless all of you. CM

Posted by Cheril Meiners - Winner, SD - Friend   June 04, 2016

We looked forward to and enjoyed coming out every year for pheasant hunting. It was always good to see family, (Habeger), old and new friends through the years. Lowdon was always very generous with letting us hunt and stay at the school. I have many great memories that I will cherish. Thanks Lowdon you will be greatly missed. Rick and Ryan Jaeger, Minnesota
Mike and Carol Rollings, Nebraska
Ed Habeger, Alaska

Posted by Rick Jaeger - Faribault, MN - Friend   June 02, 2016

Lowdon was a good man and a great friend and will be missed . God bless.

Posted by Ronnie Pile - Brandenburg, KY - Friend   June 01, 2016


On behalf of the Black Hills Branch of the Mayes Family, I want to express our sincerest condolences in the passing of our long time family friend Lowden. He was a great man, full of knowledge, anxious to share and never at a loss for conversation. Having both flown in combat (in different wars) we shared articles and stories about our experiences and had that special bond of those who have gone to war. In more recent times he hosted us to hunt pheasants on his land and we always enjoyed visiting with him. Terry, Greg and I will mourn his passing. Larry, Terry and Greg Mayes

Posted by Larry Mayes - Rapid City, SD - Friend   June 01, 2016

I was invited in 2012 to drive out to South Dakota by my son-in law's Grandpa to shoot prairie dogs. We had been told by a mutual friend to contact Mr. Lowdon Heller and he would let us hunt on his ranch. We were traveling with my young adult son and my son-in-law. We spent a couple of days shooting and visiting with Mr. Heller. We were all captivated by this interesting 87 (four score and seven) year old gentleman with his unusual hats who rode herd on his cattle and horses with his four wheeler and his many old cars. He asked the boys if they were going to do any pheasant hunting. When they said that they had only brought rifles, he dug up an old shotgun and took them out to hunt pheasant. They had a blast. He invited us out to Ideal to see the old school house that was being fixed up. Mr Heller was a real example of western ranch hospitality. I've visited a couple more times since then with some of my hunting buddies. We had to endure some mild teasing from Mr. Heller when we got our truck stuck in his field and he came out with his tractor to pull us out. He loaned us a book that was written about the area and we had some great visits with him as he shared stories of local history. I am thankful to Mr. Heller for so graciously sharing his beautiful ranch and his great love of people and the history of the Tripp county area. My sympathies to the Heller family. We will cherish our memories of our visits with Mr. Lowdon Heller.

Posted by Russ Curtis - 8033 Walnut Lane, MI - Friend   June 01, 2016

I have known Lowdon my whole life. I lived within a half mile of Lowdon until I was 8 years old. He shared a lot of wisdom with me over the years.He always had a kid word, smile on his face and a story to tell. He was like a Grandfather to me. I will miss you dearly Lowdon. Enjoy your buckwheat pancakes with you folks.

Posted by Mike Flansburg - Redfield, SD - Friend   June 01, 2016

I will greatly miss my friend Lowdon.

I am thankful for his friendship and hospitality.

He was a true gentleman and scholar.

All the best "Old Friend"


Posted by Gene kantack - Idaho Falls, ID - Friend   May 31, 2016


Lowdon taught at Presho when my Mom worked for the school system & she thought highly of him.He also drove our schoolbus when I was young. He was a wealth of knowledge and I believe he helped with the Lyman County Historical Society over the years.

My personal memories are of visiting with Lowdon at the sheep sales in Chamberlain, at auctions or social events. He was a genius on so many subjects and a very imaginative fellow who could make about anything from scraps around the place. I remember him buying an old stationwagon from my brother & and few weeks later we met him at Chamberlain and he was hauling a load of sheep in the back ! I will miss this humble man, as I am sure man will ....

God bless you Mr. Heller & may you enjoy heaven as much as you did your life on earth - Amen.....

Posted by Joe Leichtnam - Rapid City, SD - Friend   May 31, 2016

RIP Lowdon. We salute you. We will miss you.

Our deepest sympathy to the Melba, Alis and the family.

All our love, The Kewley's

Posted by Monte & Deb Kewley - Marco Island, FL - Friend   May 30, 2016

Lowden was a dear sweet friend and we enjoyed his friendship very much.

Posted by Norman and Linda Watson - Ideal, SD - Friend   May 30, 2016

Family Album

Family Album

Family Album

Family Album

Family Album

Family Album