GARY JAY HEIDEL
June 1, 1940 - May 1, 2016
The family of Gary Heidel sadly announces his passing after a year of declining health. He died peacefully in his home on the Heidel Homestead near Castleford Monday, May 1.
Gary was born in Lewiston, Idaho on June 1, 1940. At age 4, he moved with his family to the Heidel farm near Castleford. Gary attended school at Castleford, graduating in 1958. During his senior year, Gary was class president and was elected captain of the football and basketball teams. Participation in the school band and choral programs sparked a musical talent that fostered a deep passion for music.
After high school, he attended the University of Idaho with a major in music. During his time in Moscow he enjoyed many "gigs" playing the banjo at Shakey's Pizza Parlor. After graduating with a degree in Choral Conducting and Voice in 1962, he taught voice and guitar in Coos Bay, Oregon for several years. At night he entertained in local night clubs, including visits to San Francisco where he played at the "Hungry i" and the "Purple Onion". Then, just as his group, "The Omegas", was getting established in the Bay Area and a recording contract was signed with RCA Victor, he was drafted.
Even though the USA was involved in Vietnam, Gary was fortunate to receive an assignment to Europe. In Heidelberg, Germany he became assistant conductor/soloist/arranger with the Seventh Army Soldiers' Chorus which won the International Choral Festival in Wales, England. During these years in Europe, he also sang with the Mannheim Opera Company and taught math and music at an Air Force school in England. Also, during this time, he was married for a few years. Following his service in the Army, Gary returned to the University of Idaho as an instructional assistant in the Music Department and earned a Master's degree in Voice and Choral Conducting.
Gary returned to teaching choral music at the prestigious Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1972. During his sixteen year tenure he taught general music and guitar, conducted choral groups with eighth graders and seniors, directed and arranged musical productions, arranged a large quantity of Hawaiian music (some still being performed), conducted his choral groups in the regular Chapel Services, and directed and arranged the music for graduation. While in Honolulu he had several solo roles with the Hawaii Opera Theatre. He left Punahou deeply loved by his students and highly respected by his colleagues. In November, 2015 (27 years later) a group of former students from across the nation gathered in Buhl to serenade him!!
After leaving Punahou in 1988, Gary returned to Phoenix where he wrote country/western music. He moved back to the farm in 1989 where he became active in the Castleford Men's Club and the West End Men's Association. His best known contribution to the community was the annual Christmas Cantata which he arranged and conducted.
Gary is survived by his brother, John (Marian), Kailua, HI; his sister, Judy (Reva), Bliss, ID; and his sister, Peggy (Bob), Kaneohe, HI; as well as several nieces and nephews. Gary requested that his friends and family gather for a remembrance party, which will be held from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 3, 2016 at the Clear Lake Country Club.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts are suggested to the Castleford QRU, which provided comfort and help to him over the past year.