In the early hours of Mar. 13, the whistle blew one final time for one of Knox’s beloved own. After a battle with cancer, longtime Knox icon Tim Heimann ’70 died around 12:30 a.m. that morning at his home in Galesburg, surrounded by family and friends. He was 60.
Heimann’s passing comes after several years of health problems. The latest bout with esophageal cancer began just under a year ago. The disease spread quickly throughout his body, most recently to the liver. A short time ago, he was given a one to two year life span. Shortly after that, doctors shortened that span to six months. Very recently, Tim was told he might have “just weeks” to live.
A week prior to his death, the Knox community was alerted to Heimann’s condition via a Mar. 6 all-campus email. Students and faculty were asked to help celebrate Tim’s life by sending cards and thank you notes to be included in a book to Heimann and his family.
“Awkwardly stated, any visits you have time to make, in our view, would be best kept brief,” the email on behalf of the Tom Anderson ‘66 and Topper Steinman ‘70 families said. “Tim tires easily and wants so much to share his old self with whomever is around.”
That celebration was unfortunately cut short.
In addition to graduating from Knox, Heimann coached basketball, baseball, football, and women’s tennis at Knox in various roles. He was head baseball coach from 1978-88, winning the 1986 conference championship — the last before Knox won again in 2008. He also had stints as assistant football coach and head women’s tennis coach, but his greatest coaching legacy came on the basketball court, where he coached for 24 seasons. Heimann was head basketball coach from 1985 until 2008, after serving as assistant under Knox legend Harley Knosher for a decade. Heimann won three Midwest Conference South Division Titles and was named Division Coach of the Year in 1997 and again in his final season. He finished with a 258-282 record overall. Last year, Knox renovated Memorial Gymnasium and renamed the basketball court in his honor. The floor was dedicated “Tim Heimann Court” at last month’s Homecoming ceremonies.
Along the way, Heimann also worked in the Office of Admissions, served as Assistant Dean of Students, and most recently in Knox’s Office of Advancement following his retirement from coaching.
Fittingly, a memorial service in celebration of Heimann’s life was held on Mar. 28 in Memorial Gymnasium on Tim Heimann Court. Both the west and north bleachers were filled to capacity with Knox students, faculty, alumni and friends of the college, along with family and personal friends of Heimann’s.
Steinman, the master of ceremonies, opened by asking the crowd of nearly 1,000 for a loud whistle, similar to the ones Heimann made his trademark while coaching. Several chimed in with their own version, creating a harmonic chord to push the mood from one of somberness to one with more levity.
“There we go!” Steinman said. “This is the tone we want to set.”
Steinman and six others — Vice President for Advancement Beverly Holmes, three alumni, President Taylor and Heimann’s mentor, Harley Knosher — all spoke at the event.
“Tim Heimann will be remembered as a teacher and professor of the Knox ideal,” Taylor said. “He stayed to serve; he served to the end.”
Obviously fighting off his emotions, Knosher, put it even more simply.
“For me, the key to Tim was that Tim always told you the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not,” said Knosher.
The Knox baseball and softball teams showed up in full, donning their team jerseys. The Knox baseball team has added black patches to the left sleeve of each of its jerseys. They are embroidered with simply “T.H.” in gold.
“Whenever you think you have it rough, think about Coach Heimann,” baseball coach Jami Isaacson ’92 told the team after a loss in Arizona. “Think about that man who literally gave his life to the college. We have to play the rest of this season for him.”
Perhaps the words that summed up Heimann’s impact on the college most vividly were spoken by Knox’s Head Certified Athletic Trainer, Scott Sunderland.
“Friday [Mar. 13] was the worst day I’ve had in a long, long time,” Sunderland said quietly.
Heimann is survived by his wife, Cathy ’70, and his children, Cammi ’95, Kerry, Kevin ’02, and Chris ’04.
At the family’s request, all memorials made in Heimann’s name will support Knox College.