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Obituary for Clifford C. Heij

Clifford Heij, 96, passed away on Friday November 13, 2020 at Gundersen Health System. He was born October 1, 1924 to parents Carl and Hilma Heij in Ironton, MN. He graduated from high school in 1942 and then joined the Navy in 1943 where he proudly served his country until 1946. He was a WWII hero and bravely defended the United States on the USS Mansfield as a Gunner’s Mate where he met many life long friends. One of the greatest joys in his life was attending Navy reunions all over the country and he always looked forward to reconnecting and sharing stories with his fellow service members and their families. He was also very appreciative for his trip on the Freedom Honor Flight which he attended with his daughter Sue in 2012. When he returned from his service, he moved to Brainard, MN where he worked at the Pine Beach Hotel. He then continued his work in the hotel industry and moved to Florida where, in serendipitous fashion, he met the love of his life, Ilene Olson. They married in 1949 and spent 71 years creating a life of love, memories, and laughter. Their first daughter, Susan Heij, was born in 1951 and second daughter, Sally, joined the family in 1957. They enjoyed traveling and he was a loving and wonderful husband and father. Upon his return from Florida, he attended monotype print school in Indiana then began working at The La Crosse Tribune and was a dedicated employee for 29 years from 1950-1979. He then finished his career at Trane Company where he worked from 1979-1989. His work ethic was extraordinary and he was an amazing role model. Cliff was an avid Packer fan and loved the Three Stooges. He was a proud member of the American Legion. He also enjoyed traveling to Edgewood College in Madison to watch his grandson Paul perform in many theatre productions and his granddaughter Gretchen play soccer, as well as many trips to Florida to visit his daughter Sally and granddaughters Sonja and Heidi. Cliff was the definition of a foodie and appreciated a good, hot meal more than anyone. He loved to shop for deals and received the nickname Grandpa Porkchop as a result. He was also an animal lover, especially to his son, Golden Retriever Deke. He later in life become fond of cats and loved to spoil his Pungel 1 and Pungel 2. He enjoyed gambling and trips to Las Vegas and bus trips to Black River where he made many friends that he cared for deeply. Cliff was a kind, funny and grateful man. He was not only a war hero but also a hero to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The values he instilled will remain with them as will the priceless memories, stories, and love. He will be greatly missed but always remembered and loved. He was proceeded in death by his parents Carl and Hilma Heij, his brother Helmer Williamson, sister Signe Williamson, as well as many beloved friends and family, especially his brothers and sisters in-law, and fellow Navy service members. Survivors include his loving wife of 71 years, Ilene Heij, his devoted daughter Susan Milisch and partner Tom Jones, Daughter Sally (Dieno “Poncho”) Ponushis, grandson Paul (Liz) Milisch, granddaughter Gretchen Clements, Granddaughter Sonja (David) Kort, granddaughter Heidi (Brian) Kort, great-grandchildren Lola and Deegan Clements, Marilyn Milisch, Grace and Jacob Kort, Ethan, Zachary, Madison and Lyla Kort, many loving nieces, nephews and friends. A private service will be held on November 20th with a celebration of life to follow at a later date. He will be laid to rest on November 23rd at South Beaver Creek Cemetery in Melrose, WI where he will receive the military honors that he so deserved. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the La Crosse Humane Society or the American Legion. A special thanks to his amazing care team at Gundersen Health System, especially the staff from dialysis including Dr. Balaji Srinivasan as well as the staff at Benedictine Nursing Home. Also, a very special thanks to his cherished daughter Susan Milisch who has devoted her life to not only being his caretaker, but also his best friend. He lived a long life filled with love and happiness because of her selflessness and love for him.