Wapakoneta’s ‘biggest fan’ dies

A man who was considered “Wapakoneta’s No. 1 fan” and his children and grandchildren’s “biggest fan” has died.

Ferd Heller, of Wapakoneta, died Saturday at the age of 86.

Heller contributed much to the Wapakoneta community, especially through his 12 years that he served on the Wapakoneta City School Board of Education, which he was president for four years during the building of the new high school.

Heller was a supporter of Wapakoneta High School athletics, and was a founding member of the Wapak-oneta Dad’s Club.

Heller spent time as the announcer for the Wapakoneta home wrestling meets, the Wapak Waves summer swim meets and home basketball games.  

Heller kept active by coaching summer baseball and softball teams for many years and also kept statistics on all sporting events.

Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Executive Director Greg Myers, who was a former Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education member, said Heller was a great person and they had served together on the Wapakoneta City Board of Education for numerous years in the late 1980s and 1990s.

“Ferd was great fun,” Myers said. “No one cared more about kids than Ferd did. He was always doing what was right for the kids.”

While Heller served his time on the Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education, he was active in helping and assisting with the building of the Wapakoneta High School and establishing the new middle school.

“He was a sales rep. and he had a good sense of humor,” Myers said. “He made our meetings fun.”

Myers said Heller was a hardworking school board member and his main purpose was to work hard for the students.

“Ferd was Wapak’s biggest fan,” Myers said. “The thing about Ferd was when his kids were out of school, you could still find him at every sporting event.”

While Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner did not work with Heller, he heard only good things about him.

“I heard he had a wonderful reputation for caring for the kids,” Horner said.

Horner noted that being a board member is often a thankless job, and members are mission driven people who are dedicated to the students and to the school district.

Horner, on behalf of the school district, offers his condolences to the Heller family, including his wife, Ruth, five children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Heller was also known as his children’s and grandchildren’s “biggest fan” and supported them by attending many of their activities.

Wapakoneta City Councilor Bonnie Wurst said that she knew Heller from when his grandchildren and her children used to be on the same swim team in the late 1980s to early 1990s.

“Before the (Wapakoneta Family) YMCA opened, the swim team swam at the pool,” Wurst said. “He was at every one of his granddaughters’ swim meets. He was really involved with his granddaughters swim team and their success.”

Wurst recalled Heller as a friendly person.

“When I would see him, he was always interested in hearing what my children were up to,” Wurst said.

Funeral services will be 1 p.m. Thursday at the First English Lutheran Church, in Wapakoneta, with the Rev. Steven Nelson officiating. Burial will be in the Greenlawn Cemetery, Wapakoneta.  

The family will receive friends from 4-8 p.m.,  Wednesday at the Bayliff & Eley Funeral Home, St. Rt. 501, Wapakoneta, and one hour prior to the funeral service on Thursday at the church.