Cover photo for Roland J. Heinkel's Obituary
1932 Roland 2022

Roland J. Heinkel

November 25, 1932 — October 25, 2022

Davenport Crystal Lake

Captain Roland “Rollie” James Heinkel (Ret.) died peacefully on October 25, 2022, surrounded by his family.  He was born in Hayward, Wisconsin on November 25, 1932, the eldest son of Roland Frederick and Lu Vern Mae (Henderson) Heinkel.

At age 10, and with his father away in WWII, Rollie started work as a “newsie” selling papers off trains from Chicago. He also sold tickets at Hayward’s Grand Movie Theatre where his love of all things Hollywood began. He would roll “The Hayward Favorite” cigars in exchange for movie tickets. Later, he was a jack of all trades at the Northern Lakes Coop and Feed Mill, where his coworkers, filling in for his dad, taught him to drive so he could make deliveries.

Rollie attended Hayward High School, active in choir, band, elected Prom King in 1949, Sr. Class President, and graduated in 1950.  He was an excellent athlete, earning varsity letters for football, and played varsity basketball for all four years.  He co-captained the 1950 squad with Alan Olsen. He also played centerfield in the team forerunner of the Hayward Hawks. After high school he played on the Hayward City Basketball team, sponsored by Lyle James, a local Buick Dealer, and for road games, the team all travelled in new Buicks.

Rollie attended Univ of Wisconsin-Superior, accepted into the Air Force ROTC, and graduated in 1954 with B.A. in journalism, military science/history, and a K-12 teaching certificate.   Although he played varsity in freshman year, he prioritized academics over sports.  Instead, he became an unorthodox cheerleader, renowned for his acrobatic stunts and general merriment at Yellow Jacket football and basketball games. He was still cartwheeling in his 60s.  Here he also perfected his toastmaster skills, emceeing several annual Air Force Military balls, which featured musical luminaries of his day, including Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Ray Anthony Orchestras.

Having lived through WWII, with his father and uncle returning injured from their service in Europe and the Pacific, the military played a pivotal role in Rollie’s life. Prior to college graduation, Rollie served 2 years with the 724th Combat Engineer Battalion – Wisconsin National Guard (Hayward, WI), a two-time winner of the Eisenhower Trophy.  After college graduation, on the heels of the Korean War, and in the midst of the Cold War, he served in the early days of the U.S. Air Force, graduated as a flight officer, and trained in aerial attack intercept with radar where he served on the DEW line (Distant Early Warning) in northern Alaska (not yet a state). He was assigned to the Eddie Rickenbacker “Hat in the Ring” Fighter Squadron at Selfridge AFB, MI. Promoted to Captain, he served as Master Controller at Headquarters 30th Air Division in Detroit.  On special assignment, he trained Canadian and Royal Air Force pilots in aerial attack techniques, included all weather interceptors (fighters and bombers) from various attack angles and altitudes. He left active service in 1957 and completed his tour in the Air Force Reserves.

He served Veterans with the same dedication and commitment.  He was a Life Member of the American Legion, serving as Commander in 1984 -1986. He served in various roles, as baseball chairman, Honor Guard, Liaison to all county posts, and post historian. He was also a Life Member of the VFW Post 8483, Madison, WI.    He served as President and Commander of the McHenry County Veteran’s Assistance Commission, serving over 44,000 Veterans.  He was appointed to the McHenry County Board on behalf of Veteran’s Affairs.  He was most proud of their success in securing buses to transport Veterans to various V.A. Hospitals, and was awarded recognition of this work by the Dept of Veteran’s Affairs, Washington D.C. After retirement, he continued to work for the Air Force Reserves, and with groups of prospective candidates for the five service academies.  Wisconsinite Richard Bong was a boyhood hero, and Rollie recently completed an oral history of his own military service at the Richard I Bong Veteran Historical Center in Superior, WI.

Rollie was a beloved educator in a career that spanned 35 years.  He began his career in Crystal Lake, IL, and 4 years later, started teaching in Arlington Heights, IL District 25. He served at South Jr. High, Thomas Jr. High, and Rand Jr. High, holding various positions including Department Chair, Principalships, and Director of Special Services. He was elected President of the Arlington Teacher’s Association (ATA).  He retired in 1993.

He was also a consummate learner and a voracious reader.  He earned an M.S. in Administration, from Northern Ill Univ, Dekalb, Certificate of Advance Study and Superintendency degree, from Univ of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.  He read the newspaper from front to back daily, with special emphasis on the sports section. He was an avid Packers and Badgers fan, enjoying all Wisconsin sports. Wisconsin sports legend Don Gehrmann was a special inspiration to him.

Rollie met the love of his life, Karin Sandstrom, a registered nurse.  They married in 1958 and celebrated 54 years of marriage before Karin passed away from long-term effects of multiple sclerosis.  As her illness progressed, he was her primary caregiver for over 40 years of their marriage. Three children were born to them, Colleen, Jeffrey, and David.

He was active in several community and professional organizations and associations, with the same enthusiasm and dedication that he devoted to all his pursuits. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Ridgefield, Illinois, where early in his life he was Director of Sunday School/Planning and worked with Reverend Tozer on church re-design.  He was active with the Crystal Lake High School Marching Band, most notably organizing and leading the town parades. He also served as Secretary/Treasurer of both Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball.  Most recently, he served as Resident Ambassador at The Arbors-East, a role he relished.  There he was able to reprise his role as toastmaster, with stand-up comedy conducting good-natured “roasts” of staff, along with “Rollie’s Jollies” in the newsletter.  He had a fine baritone voice, and was still singing Broadway solos with the Oak Park Place Choir at age 87.   We could always find him by his whistling: his whistling was legendary.

Rollie had a wonderful sense of humor and valued it in others. He had a steel-trap mind, keeping Hollywood, musical, sports and historical facts as well as any encyclopedia could.  He called himself a “Renaissance Man” with many hobbies and historical collections, that spanned Hollywood stars to American political and military history.  He encouraged and supported everyone he met, making them feel special and appreciated.  After many encounters throughout his life, even clinic visits, he would always send a hand-written thank you note in his award-winning handwriting to a doctor, nurse, or server. For example, after receiving a jar of treasured sauerkraut from an owner who completed Rollie’s wife’s gravestone, Rollie sent a Christmas card every year in thanks, signing off with “Savor the Sauerkraut.”  He found the good in all people, and appreciated all that was given to him.

He is survived by his sister, Deb Klein; his children, Colleen, Jeffrey, and David Heinkel; grandchildren, Gregg Heinkel, Danica Rocha, Brandon Heinkel, Haley Remsing, Douglas Heinkel, Geneva Miller, Karin Heinkel; 3 great-grandchildren; and beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.

Rollie was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Karin; and his brothers, Gregory, Russell, and Dennis Heinkel.

His family would like to thank his excellent medical teams at UW-Health and Meriter for their dedicated and compassionate service, and his extensive “second” family at The Arbors East who provided for a most fulfilling life.

A visitation will be held at Davenport Funeral Home, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave, Crystal Lake, IL on Saturday, November 12, from 9:30am until the time of a funeral service at 11:30 am.  Burial will follow at Crystal Lake Memorial Park where Military Honors will be held.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in Rollie's name can be made out to the Crystal Lake American Legion Post 171, PO Box 1713 Crystal Lake, IL 60039

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Roland J. Heinkel, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, November 12, 2022

9:30 - 11:30 am (Central time)

Davenport Family Funeral Home and Crematory

419 East Terra Cotta Avenue, Crystal Lake, IL 60014

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Starts at 11:30 am (Central time)

Davenport Family Funeral Home and Crematory

419 East Terra Cotta Avenue, Crystal Lake, IL 60014

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Starts at 12:30 pm (Central time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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