A WWII Veteran Sings Taps
Jimmie Harmon Heft, aka Daddio, GI Jimmie, age 97, passed peacefully on October 18, 2021, in Topeka, Kansas.. Jimmie was born on April 4, 1924, in Dodge City, Kansas to WWI Veteran and carpenter Albert Eli (Wix) and loving mother Mary Ethel Harmon Heft. He grew up during the Great Depression and came from humble beginnings. H Jimmie exemplified the Greatest Generation. As a teen, he worked with his father for the Corp of Engineers at airbases and fields in Kansas and Colorado before enlisting in the U.S. Army during WWII. He attended basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, which he revisited in 2016 at the age of 92 as a special guest and participated in training activities, interviews, and inspected the troops. Jimmie served in the Army Corp of Engineers in China, Burma, India (CBI) from 1943 to 1946, clearing jungles and building the Ledo Road to create a land supply route. He returned to the U.S. in a “bobbing sardine can” after contracting Malaria. He always heartedly greeted anyone with Indian heritage.
Jimmie continued his service to America well into his 90’s volunteering at the Topeka VA where he provided transport, songs, and jokes to “old soldiers”. In 2012, Mr. Heft was nominated for the Honor Flight to Washington D.C. He enjoyed his trip with fellow veterans and high school student attendants so much he requested to return. At age 90, his daughters arranged for a memorable father/daughter trip back to D.C. with special U.S. Capitol, White House, and Arlington tours. After his passing and next to his favorite recliner, Mark Batterson’s “Praying Circles Around Your Children” was found which Jimmie most likely picked up in D.C. while attending Community National Church before visiting the adjacent Ben’s Chili Bowl. Mr. Heft was also an honoree at many veterans events at schools, parades, and the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in Abilene and met General Eisenhower’s family. He enjoyed displaying his Presidential and Congressional birthday correspondence and military memorabilia. Jimmie’s “unofficial” social media presence went public after a Veteran’s Day post of him singing World War II Nazi fighting classic, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” garnered 200,000 likes and a marriage proposal.
In 2019 at age 95, Jimmie’s audience further expanded when he was asked to carry a red, white, and blue guitar on stage to Toby Keith, who saluted honored veterans’ in song. At age 90, Jimmie begrudgingly began using the internet on his first laptop computer so he could read the Dodge City Daily Globe without delay and play solitaire. His singing, poetry, and toasts made for entertaining posts by his daughters on Facebook, which he simultaneously loved and baulked at. He considered Alexa his joke and music assistant.
Jimmie was unforgettable and will be remembered as a sharp-dressed man’s man with a twinkle in his eye, drinking coffee and eating glazed donuts while shooting the breeze or sipping a chocolate malt and leading the family ice “scream” cheer. Jimmie had a beautiful voice, loved music, and whistling, which along with his daily mile-long walks kept his lungs strong. His family will especially miss him singing the Good Morning Song and Happy Birthday. He was known for a firm grip on all remotes that generally were tuned to his favorite sporting event, old sitcoms, westerns, the local news, or game show. He loved rocking on his patio in the sunshine enjoying nature and reading his “Daily Bread” devotions as well as sitting by the fire, eating popcorn, and…As a proud Kansan, he took great pleasure in introducing friends to Boot Hill, The Garden of Eden, Dalton Gang Hideout, and The Big Well.
At 97 years young, Jimmie had 20/20 vision, no hearing aids, had his own strong choppers, no joint replacements, and a good head of hair that needed frequent cutting. He often joked he would be leaving this world with all his own parts. He will be missed by young and old alike, but probably not by referees, telemarketers, or incompetent nincompoops as patience was not always his virtue.
Jimmie was cremated. His memorial and burial with military honors will be held at Fort Dodge Veteran’s Cemetery, date pending. He will be laid to rest next to his wife, fittingly reunited at their Home on the Range. Online condolences and fond memories may be left at www.brennanmathenafh.com.