by David Hill
“How’s the world treating you today?”
Roger Heyn was an ambitious man with broad interests – interests that included studying and collecting old cars, and being in the outdoors. But he loved doing these things the most with his friends and family.
Last week, friends and family remembered him by dedicating a bench along the new Greenwood Trails bike and walking path. That bench features a question Heyn used to engage friends and family in conversation – “How’s the world treating you today?”
Valerie Larson Heyn described seeing the bench as a shock. While it was months in the making, family and friends kept it a secret until last Tuesday.
Valerie said some of her friends wanted to go out to lunch and she thought nothing of it because they usually go out for lunch on Tuesday. When they arrived at the Evergreen, she noticed several other friends at the restaurant. “I thought, that was nice,” she said.
After lunch, they all suggested they go for a walk around Greenwood Trails, which she thought was a nice idea too because she walks around the trail almost every day.
Heyn said it was a little unusual for all of them to do that but still, Heyn said she just thought that was nice.
That this was all an elaborate surprise for her really didn’t dawn on her until she saw her son, Kent, who had driven to Thief River Falls earlier that day from Minneapolis, sitting on a bench she hadn’t noticed before.
Heyn had to explain that she’d noticed the cement pad where the bench was sitting all summer and had wondered what it would be used for.
She must have mentioned her thoughts on the subject to one or more of her friends, even her daughter. Yet, they kept the secret.
The secret began last summer. Valerie said she later learned that her children from a previous marriage and Roger’s children from a previous marriage, as well as their friends Jeff and Lisa Burnham, had conspired to do something special for Roger and Valerie. (Their children include Grant and Missy Larson, Derek and Sherri Larson, Kent and Sheila Larson, Ben and Kara Worker, Steven and Deanna Heyn, Doug and Julie Hatch.) The children wanted to do something more than just donate money in Roger’s name to a cause or foundation. The idea of a bench along the trail came up and her daughter, Kara, and her husband, Ben, ran with it. The plan had to include local city staff, especially Mark Borseth, acting public works director, so there were a lot of conspirators.
As already mentioned, while on their walk on Greenwood Trails last Tuesday, the group came upon her son, Kent, who was sitting on the bench. The surprise became even more emotional for Valerie when they asked her to uncover the dedicatory plaque on the bench. It reads: “In Loving Memory of Roger L. Heyn Aug. 7, 1939 – January 17, 2017. “How’s the world treating you today?”
Valerie loves the bench, loves the fact that so many cared, and hopes that the many people who use the trail will enjoy it too.
“God, I was shocked, and still am,” said Valerie.
Roger Heyn grew up in Thief River Falls where he participated in golf, hockey, student senate, and theater. He graduated from Lincoln High School in 1957. He married Nancy Jean Bickerstaff and worked for Minnesota Rubber as well as Parker Seal companies in Minneapolis and then California, before pioneering his own rubber and computer business in Littleton, Colo. Following the death of Nancy in 2001, he moved back to Minnesota. In 2003, he met Valerie Ann Fellman Larson. They were married in January 2004. Roger passed away in January 2017.