Long time Kings Beach resident Benjamin “Benny” Heineike died suddenly of natural causes at the age of 72 at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Reno, NV on 16 June, 2012.
He was born to Murray and Ora Heineike in 1939. He and his brothers and sisters grew up in Texarkana, TX in the house that Murray built. In 1954 the family moved to Wichita, Kansas where Ben attended West High School, graduating in 1957.
Like his father, he joined the Marine Corps as a young man and left for basic training in San Diego. While in the Marines, he served as a small arms instructor, and embarked on an amphibious transport ship during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was turned back before it arrived in Cuba. After he left the Corps he returned to Wichita to be close to family and to attend Wichita State University.
Fate had other plans for Benny. On a journey to Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1963, he wrote in a postcard to his mother and father letting them know that he would not be returning to Kansas; “All is well. I am at Lake Tahoe. Decided not to make the trip home. … I am having a lot of fun.” He continued to have fun at and around the lake for the next 49 years.
He didn’t just have fun after work or on the weekends. He was a man of many skills and trades who enjoyed and took pride in a hard day’s work. Over the years he was a craps dealer, farmer, bartender, bar owner, and a master carpenter whose handiwork can be seen in schools, churches, and mansions in the Reno/Tahoe Area. He even made it into the Kings Beach chapter of the Carpenter’s Hall of Fame.
In 1980 he married Marilyn Fisher and by 1981 they had two sons, Benjamin Murray Heineike and Daniel Lewis Heineike. Marilyn remembers, “I have never seen a man’s face so happy as when I told him that we were going to have a child”. They settled in Kings Beach, moving from a trailer park on Brook street to a house on Trout street. Benny would eventually buy a house at the “End of the Rainbow”, complete with a pot of gold-painted rocks.
He and Marilyn separated in 1991 and Benny became the primary custodian of the two boys. He was a devoted father who, despite long and exhausting hours at work, was always actively involved in his children’s education – helping with sports teams, leading hiking trips with the boy scouts, teaching them to split wood, build walls, and repair vehicles, and ensuring that they experienced the culture and beauty of the west. His sons would both go on to study at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and become Officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.
His love of the lake did not prevent him from exploring the rest of the world. A person would be hard pressed to find a road in Northern California or Nevada that he did not drive more than once. No excuse was too small to prompt an adventure, and whether the destination was Baja, California or Derby, England, he always took time to smell the flowers, learn the local history and visit friends and family.
He was a generous soul who provided weary travelers who were down on their luck a place to relax and have a few laughs until they could get back on their feet. In retirement, if he was not on the road or working on his latest project, he could be found sitting on the deck that he built or in his favorite local tavern sharing a drink and a story about his travels or the history of the American West. He never wasted a good summer’s day in Tahoe, making his rounds through town to check on friends, the willows, and the beaver dam. This is exactly what he was doing in the days before he passed away.
He is survived by his brothers John, George and Tom Heineike, his sisters Merida McClendon, Erma Short and Gracie Webb, and by his two sons Benjamin and Daniel Heineike.
A memorial service will be held at his home in Kings’ Beach on Sunday, July 1st at 12:00 pm. Contact his son, Benjamin, for further details (Benjamin.firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-368-7888).