GREENFIELD — Jack Heiden always had the community’s best interest at heart, and his dedication to his Hancock County neighbors was evident in the many ways he sought to give back, friends and colleagues say.
The two-term commissioner and former county coroner died Saturday at Hancock Regional Hospital. He was 69.
In addition to his civic career, Heiden was a longtime softball coach at area schools and a former detective lieutenant for the Greenfield Police Department, where he worked for 31 years before retiring in 2000.
He leaves behind his wife, daughter and three grandchildren.
The Fortville resident was born in Anderson in 1946 and later moved to Hancock County, where he graduated from Central Hancock High School before heading to the University of Evansville.
He then enlisted in the United States Army in 1966 and was stationed in Giessen, Germany, where he met and married his wife, Melitta.
After returning from Germany, he signed on for a job at the Greenfield Police Department. There, he served as a mentor to countless officers during his tenure, said department Chief John Jester.
Officers who knew him said Heiden knew the law better than anyone.
When Heiden was elected coroner in 1992, he appointed Jester his deputy coroner, and Jester shadowed him for eight years before Heiden helped Jester win his own campaign to take over the position.
That sense of mentorship is what made Heiden a good leader for the dozens of officers who served alongside him over the years, Jester said.
Maj. Derek Towle, who served as a commissioner with Heiden as well as worked with him at the police department, echoed Jester’s sentiments.
Heiden was elected to his first term as commissioner in 2000, and he represented his constituents well, Towle said. He often used surveys to gauge how voters felt about issues before taking a stand on their behalf, Towle said.
“He always tried to help people and wanted to be very accessible,” Towle said.
County councilman Bill Bolander worked with Heiden during the eight years he served as a commissioner and said Heiden was conscientious of every decision he made; he always thought about the impact his votes would have on the county, Bolander said.
All around, he was a good man who deeply cared for Hancock County, Bolander said.
He also enjoyed working with young athletes and was actively involved in a number of sports programs.
Heiden coached softball at University of Indianapolis, Mt. Vernon High School and Eastern Hancock High School over the years. He stepped down from position of coach at Eastern Hancock in 2013 for health reasons after leading the softball team to claim the school’s first softball regional championship.
Principal Dave Pfaff said Heiden was a legend in the softball world; he spent countless hours teaching the game he loved to hundreds of kids, he said.
“He maintained an even–keel, instilled confidence in others and always put his teams in the best position to be successful,” Pfaff said. “We considered ourselves fortunate that we were able to have him on our coaching staff, and his results speak for themselves.”
A memorial service celebrating Heiden’s life will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Seals Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Fortville. Visitation begins at 4 p.m.