In Memory of Leroy Hiebert
Leroy Hiebert, who worked on the Janzen farm for 55 years, passed away Aug. 14, 2013, following complications of a heart procedure and a car accident.
Leroy will be sorely missed. Leroy was there for all the ups and downs, and was a dear friend to many of our family members. Leroy was like an uncle to many of the Janzen children who grew up on and near the farm. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Hiebert family.
Leroy was born November 26, 1932 in Goessel, Kansas to Gustav H. and Maria A. (Buller) Hiebert.
For an official obituary, click here. Keep scrolling for Mark Janzen, Sr.'s tribute to Leroy.
Please click on a picture to read its caption.
Tribute to Leroy Hiebert by Mark Janzen, Sr.
My first memory of LeRoy occurred, as perhaps a first grader, when I called him ReLoy and some older kids teased me that I had mispronounced his name. Of course, I didn’t initially hear the difference and retorted back, “I said ReLoy!” But, it didn’t really matter to me whether he was ReLoy or LeRoy. I was just a child and he was a big high school guy who was really strong and always friendly to me.
The fact that LeRoy’s father had been killed in a car accident had a big impact on me when I was young. It was hard to imagine being a teenager without a father. I knew that when I’d meet LeRoy in the cow barn early in the morning, he was there because he took some of that milk home to his family. Already as a young man, he was doing what LeRoy did best, “helping others.”
It’s been said that a good way to get to know someone is to do hard physical work with them. If that’s the case, then I was very well acquainted with LeRoy. As a child, barely big enough to reach the pedals, I was able to drive the tractor and baler a lot and watch LeRoy stack bales. He stacked those bales with grace and ease as if they weighed nothing. As I grew older and spent more time on the wagon and less on the tractor, LeRoy would often demonstrate how to make a “tight” stack by interlocking the bales. He would relish in making his loads a bale or two higher than mine. When stacking hay bales in the barn, LeRoy had unbelievable strength and stamina, and no matter how many times he stepped in a hole or how hot and dusty it was, he never complained. Instead, he would taunt my dad, who was putting hay on the conveyor, by yelling to him, “MORE HAY.” By the time I grew up and had children of my own to help with the farm work, we were all still convinced that LeRoy was the strongest person we knew.
For LeRoy hard work was simply the way you got things done. When a task seemed long or arduous, there was no time to waste. The sooner you started the sooner you’d be done. And, the job didn’t always end at 6:00 PM. That’s right, for those of you accustomed to a 40 hour work week, that’s not how it was for LeRoy. He was hard-wired to start the day at 7 and end at 6, usually 6 days a week. And even after a hard day’s work, when I’d ask if he could stay a little longer so we could finish something, the 10 hours of labor didn’t dampen his sense of humor. “I’m sure Sadie won’t mind. She probably hasn’t made supper yet.”
But LeRoy’s strength was more than just physical. He had strength of character. He didn’t just work hard for a paycheck. He put in just as much effort when doing things for others. If we were here today for anyone else’s funeral, who would be standing out in the parking lot directing traffic? LeRoy. If the church sidewalks needed snow removed, who would be there? LeRoy. When another volunteer was needed at the MCC Relief Sale, who’s available? LeRoy. At 5:30 AM on the farm I hear the feed truck driving around and wonder what’s going on. At 7:00 AM there’s a knock at the door and LeRoy standing there. “I’m going to work for MDS today and if you aren’t able to chore tonight, I’ll do it when I get back.” That’s real dedication, both to a job and a good cause.
Another aspect of LeRoy’s character was his ability to get along with others. When there was a controversy at church, for example, I never heard him speak an unkind word about any one. He really lived Jesus’ command to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He also understood that “community” can only thrive when everyone contributes in their own way. That means you don’t put down others as a way of enhancing your own opinion.
I’ve often looked back at the 35 plus years I was LeRoy’s employer and marveled at how well we got along. Sometimes we had disagreements on how things should be done. He would make his case but if things didn’t go his way, he wasn’t the type to grumble or pout. He also didn’t hesitate to be forthcoming when he made a mistake. His favorite phrase when that happened was to say, “I did a dumb, dumb. I just drove the feed truck into the elevator with the spout down.” I tell this story because when something like this happened to LeRoy, he didn’t blame others for what had happened. For him it was simple. A mistake happened and now we have to fix it. Let’s get busy.
During many of the years LeRoy worked for my dad, Herman, and me, he often had lunch with our families. This was a time where the scope of the conversation widened because of other participants. LeRoy would often talk about his nephews and what they were doing. Our children would ask LeRoy all sorts of questions to which he would sometimes give rather subtle answers. He was always kind to our children, even when they were little and would climb on him driving their toy tractors while he was trying to take a short nap after lunch. And if Hennie and I were gone for a weekend, we knew LeRoy would personally check on her mother, who was taking care of the children, to make sure everything was okay.
LeRoy’s real character showed in many ways. His integrity was evident in the complete trust we placed in him. His dependability showed daily in his timely arrival and dedication to “getting the job done.” His honesty was simply assumed because nothing ever challenged it. He was short on words and long on deeds. LeRoy, thank you for sharing such a substantial part of your life with us.