Walter (Wally) Gerald Hed (88), of Cambridge, MN passed away peacefully in his sleep on February 9, 2021 after suffering from both dementia and Covid 19. Wally was born and grew up in St. Paul, the fifth of six children, to Swedish immigrants; his Swedish heritage was always important to him. He graduated from Johnson High School then attended Concordia Junior College in St. Paul. He continued his schooling at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, graduating in 1955 and went on to graduate from Wartburg Seminary in 1959, as a Lutheran pastor. Following his internship in Pullman, Washington, in 1958 he married Charlotte Empie, whose father Paul C.Empie was a leader in the Lutheran pastoral community and was instrumental in the creation of the Lutheran World Relief (LWR), which became Wally and Char’s favorite charity throughout both of their lives.
Wally pastored at church parishes in Scarsdale, NY, Clinton, MD, the island of Bermuda, and Champlin, MN. In 1981 he studied at Hazelden to be certified in Chemical Dependency Counseling, then became a chaplain at Anoka Treatment Center. During 28 years of his career, he also served as a military chaplain in the National Guard and Reserves, retiring as a full Colonel. After retiring in 1996, he and Charlotte moved to Cambridge, MN. He continued pastoring, volunteering, counseling, or working into his 80’s, at places such as Hazelden, Moose Lake Prison, Cambridge Lutheran Church, and GracePointe Crossing.
Wally cared deeply for people and had a gift for making anyone feel loved and welcome. He was a fantastic listener and had a true gift for drawing people out. Many was the time someone in our family would introduce a cherished friend or partner and within five minutes Wally would learn a bevy of information we had never heard before. It became something of a family joke and was always so fun to bring him to meet new people and look at them through fresh eyes.
Both Wally and Char were forward thinking people who believed in always doing the right thing simply because it was right. Their greatest ministry was by their lived example - whether it was organizing a busload of white clergymen to attend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington D.C. in 1963, or advocating to integrate home ownership or pool access in their neighborhoods wherever they happened to be living, or attending seminars about HIV / AIDS early in the crisis in the 1980s to learn how to compassionately care for those affected. Or especially, in the less spectacular details - taking their free time to pick up trash on the highways; savoring walks through nature; relishing in singing and arts; and generally just finding ways to not only appreciate the beauty of the world, but leave anything they touched a little more beautiful than they met it.
Wally was physically active into his mid to late 80’s, participating in cross-country skiing events and biking. He attended many ski races, in later years taking one of the top three places in his age group (his age group usually had only 3 or 4 people in it). In one race (Kortelopet), he skied the last 10Km with a broken leg. A pinnacle race for Wally was in Sweden where he skied 60Km in the Swedish Vasaloppet. He completed his last 13Km Vasaloppet race when he was 85. His passion of skiing has been passed on to his children and grandchildren.
Wally loved travel and adventure! One example of this is when, at age 72, he took a solo bicycle trip, pedaling his 25 year old Schwinn bike from Cambridge, through southern Ontario, to Up-State New York. Wally was always off on a whim, whether solo road trips to golf through the south, a two week bike trip across China, or his most spectacular - a gut impulse flight to Israel in which he wandered into the West Bank - on foot and unguided, meeting with both Palestinians and Israelis - and miraculously managing to come back unscathed and imbued with a nuanced appreciation for the challenges there.
Wally never stopped learning. He loved to attend lectures on a variety of theological and social issues at numerous colleges in the region, always cognizant of the changing dynamics and evolution of how the world works. He also enjoyed attending musical, art, theater, and sporting events, especially when his children or grandchildren were involved.
Wally was passionate about nature and the environment. He was involved with organizing the Rum River cleanup for many years, where every September crews of canoers picked up garbage on sections of the river, which is now on-going. He supported the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) groups, and enjoyed canoeing and camping there in his youth and with his son later in life.
Wally is survived by his children, Kathy (Jeff) Iverson, Staples, MN, Steve (Jennifer) Hed, Putney, VT, and Paul (Michelle) Hed, Ham Lake, MN. Also nine grandchildren: Becki, Kirsti, Lynnea, Jenessa, Natasha, Naomi, Noah, Mikayla, and Samantha. Wally had four great-grandsons: Milo, Solomon, Amari, and Rocky. He is also survived by his close friend, Chris Misewich of Cambridge MN and her family. He was preceded in death by his wife, Charlotte and all of his siblings.
Wally spent his life giving to and serving many, many people. Due to Covid restrictions, a memorial service to celebrate Wally’s life will be held this summer when gatherings are safer and more of the people whose lives he has touched may attend.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Lutheran World Relief (www.lwr.org/wallyandchar) - Wally and Char’s favorite charity.
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