A former Pekin councilmam, WWII veteran, past post commander of South Pekin VFW Post and dedicated churchgoer who helpd out with Sunday school died last month at 94.
Henry “Hank” VanderHeyden passed away at his residence Thursday, Aug. 16. He will be remembered for his life-long allegiance to the Chicago Cubs, his passion for fishing, and his love of family and friends, said mutiple people who knew him.
“Uncle Hank was a genuine, happy, big-hearted Christian who loved God and loved his family,” said Henry’s niece Sherry Arnett. “I was truly blessed to have him as an uncle.”
Henry was born April 5, 1924, in South Pekin to Rollin and Mary (Lord) VanderHeyden. He married Charlotte M. Anderson on June 12, 1949, in Pekin. He later married Carol J. (Garber) Hayes on Jan. 30, 1999, in Morton.
“He was a very honest man who took time out of his day for anyone,” said friend Sue Thompson. “My mother and I even took care of his father, Rollin, and he was the same way, so it was obvious to us who he learned it from.”
VanderHeyden graduated from Pekin Community High School in 1942 and then served in the U.S. Army with the Second and Twelfth Armored Divisions in France and Germany from 1943 to 1946 as a combat medic. He received the Combat Medical Badge and Bronze Star Medal for Valor.
After getting married, VanderHeyden and his wife, Carol, moved to Morton, where they began attending the Morton Methodist Church. VanderHeyden did everything he could to see his church thrive and even helped with the Sunday school program, said Arnett.
“He was an avid fisherman and that was his passion aside from his religious beliefs and just being an all-around good guy always looking to help others,” said Arnett. “Ever since my uncle’s passing, I’ve been going through pictures of him grinning ear to ear holding up the fish he proudly caught.”
Active in the community, VanderHeyden served 24 years as a Pekin City Council member and four years as a member of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. He was also a past president of the Pekin Jaycees as well as a past post commander of South Pekin VFW Post 6484. He also served as a member and a chairman of the administrative board of Pekin Grace United Methodist Church.
School bus driver Elaine Richey was positive about VanderHeyden’s time on City Council.
“At that time, every commissioner ran each department and Henry was in charge of seven departments including building and grounds, which was when I was working as a bus driver and first met him,” said Richey. “He later gave me a job at City Hall and always knew what his budget was and how to manage that budget but yet somehow always focused on others and how they were doing.”
VanderHeyden “shared his life with us and was an incredible man to work with,” Richey said. He was always a gentleman, she said, and he treated employees with respect and listened to their problems.
“When working with Henry, we were a team and more importantly a family,” said Richey. “It was never divided and whether you worked as the mayor, secretary, commissioner, custodian, bus driver, or monitor, no matter what job title you held Henry would always treat you as an equal in his time as commissioner.”