The Honorable Thomas E. Heydinger, judge retired, age 71, of Norwalk, died Monday, July 9, 2012.
Thomas “Tom” was born on the family farm on Aug. 24, 1940, in Plymouth, Ohio. He was born to the late Herbert J. “Whitey” and Erma A. (Sheibley) Heydinger.
Tom graduated from the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio, the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, and Ohio Northern College of Law in Ada, Ohio. Tom served his country as a captain in the U.S. Army, 1st Calvary Division during the Vietnam War as a helicopter pilot and later as a military lawyer in the JAG Corps and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Army Air Medal for his service.
Tom was admitted to practice in the Ohio Supreme Court in 1967, U.S. Federal Court for Northern District of Ohio in 1971, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974.
Tom had a long history of service to his state and local governments beginning with his serving as a county court judge in Crawford County, Ohio in 1971. From there he served as assistant to the attorney general of the State of Ohio and then returned to the area working as the assistant prosecuting attorney of Huron County, Ohio. Tom was appointed by Gov. John J. Gilligan to the position of judge of Huron County Common Pleas Court Probate and Juvenile Division in 1975 and was subsequently elected and re-elected serving continuously for 28 years until 2002 when he retired from the position. During his tenure and into retirement Tom served on numerous occasions being assigned by the Ohio Supreme Court as a visiting Juvenile Judge in the Court of Cuyahoga County, and Court of Appeals Eighth Appellate District also of Cuyahoga County, and in various probate, juvenile and municipal courts in Seneca, Huron, Sandusky, Erie, Lake, and Lucas counties, filling in for other judges as needed. He was recognized eight times by the Ohio Supreme Court for Outstanding Judicial Service.
Tom introduced the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program to Huron County in 1988. He instituted the Reach Our Youth (R.O.Y.) Program in Huron County in 1978. He also instituted C.A.S.A (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Program in Huron County in 1989. He was very proud of these programs and the good people who have continued to run these programs over the years. After retirement he was appointed in 2008 as an interim 58th District Ohio State Representative.
Professionally Tom was a member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Ohio Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. He served as the president of the Ohio Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges from 1989 to 1990. He also served as a trustee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and on various committees within that association.
Civically Tom was a member of The Vietnam Veterans of America, life member of the American Legion Post 41, life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2743, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
Tom was also a life member of the Knights of Columbus (4th degree) and parishioner of St. Paul’s Catholic parish where he served on numerous committees over the years. Tom enjoyed serving annually at Buckeye Boys State since 1986. He also worked very hard for the interests of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy hoping to provide for natural spaces to be enjoyed for many years in the future.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret “Peggy” Heydinger whom he married at Wakeman St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Nov. 28, 1980; children David (Lisa) Hedrick of Norwalk and Kelly (Timothy) Kohler of Waterville, Ohio; grandchildren Faye, Kathleen, Julia, Colleen, Grady, Meghan, Davis, and Ryan; sister Carol (John) Ensman of Shelby, Ohio; brothers Edwin (Carole) of New Burgh, Ind.; Gerard (Cha Cha) Heydinger of Mission Viejo, Calif.; and Herman (Lyda) Heydinger of Palm Bay, Fla.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Tom was truly appreciative to have had the opportunity to serve the fine people of Huron County for so many years. He was so very concerned about the long term well being of the youth of this county and with his wonderful staff and affiliated county organizations, worked tirelessly to improve their lives and futures.
Friends may call 3-8 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at the Evans Funeral Home, 314 E. Main St., Norwalk. A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 12, at St. Paul Catholic Church, 91 E. Main St., Norwalk. The Rev. Frank Kehres, pastor of the church, will officiate. Burial with military honors will follow at St. Paul Cemetery.
Memorial contributions can be made to St. Paul High School tuition fund or Reach Our Youth (R.O.Y.) Program of Huron County.
Condolences may be shared at norwalkfuneral.com.