Our Cowboy Hero, Dr. Everett Ellis Heindselman, DVM, age 88, took his final Earthly ride June 1, 2021. He passed away at the log home he built in Okanogan, Washington, surrounded by his loving family and Dorothy, his wife of nearly 67 years. He is now reunited with his favorite horse Pride and is surely saddled up, moving cows, or sitting horseback on a ridge watching the sunrise. He wasn’t one to be wasting precious time burning daylight.
Ell was born Jan. 27, 1933, in Vera, Oklahoma, to William Ross and Clara Wachtman Heindselman. The sixth of seven children, he began learning his tremendous work ethic at an early age on the family farm. At the age of 3, his family moved to Collins, Washington, after the farm crop was decimated by grasshoppers. His folks used a string on a map to find the state furthest from Oklahoma, and Washington won.
At Puyallup High School, he met Dorothy, the baby sister of his best friend Buzz. He confided in his friends that someday he would marry that girl. In 1952, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Airborne, making 54 jumps during his enlistment. Stationed in Tennessee, he drove across the country back to Washington to marry Dorothy, the love of his life, on Sept. 4, 1954.
Together, they returned to Tennessee where they made their first home in a converted coal bin. It was the start of their lifelong adventure together. Upon returning to Washington, the family became three with the birth of son Douglas Lee in 1955. A lifelong animal lover, Ell decided to pursue his dream of becoming a veterinarian and enrolled at Washington State University in Pullman in 1956. Go Cougs. He was accepted into vet school on his first try.
In 1960, son Richard Kirk joined the family. Upon graduation in 1962, Elle accepted a position at a veterinary clinic in Washougal, Washington, starting his career helping those animals he loved, and earning the name that followed him the rest of his life, Doc Heindselman. The saying is, “being a vet is the hardest kind of doctor because they can’t ask their patients what is wrong.”
It wasn’t long before he started his own practice in Washougal, Orchard Hills Veterinary Clinic. The family grew by two during these years, with William Brent arriving in 1964 and Kory Reed in 1967. With four boys in tow, he decided he had enough hands to pursue his other lifelong dream, being a rancher vet in eastern Washington. In 1976, he moved the family to Okanogan to a 2,100-acre spread, ready for years of horses, cows, sheep, pigs, dogs, cats, goats and many other critters. He served the animal community in the Okanogan Valley for 30-plus years, treating more patients than there are stars in the sky, all the while using his common-sense approach to veterinarian medicine. During these years, Doc and Dorothy were heavily involved with the Cattlemen and Cattlewomen associations, with Doc serving as county president, as well as serving on numerous committees at the state level and attending several national conventions around the country. In 1990, Washington state hosted the National Beef Cookoff, and he served as a host, along with other state and county members.
Family was everything to him, and he truly was the foundation and patriarch as Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa, Grandpa Doc, or Uncle Ellis. He was also the surrogate Dad, Grandpa, Uncle and more to so many other family and friends. Many have told us over the years how they considered him their bonus Dad or Grandpa. And he relished the role, sharing his wisdom, love and caring hugs with so many.
An avid outdoorsman, he hunted, fished, camped and spent time outside whenever he could. He could tie any knot, build a fire from wet wood, whittle a stick whistle, or make a leather holster or belt at the drop of a hat. But we all knew he was happiest saddled up atop a horse. That’s when those amazing blue eyes twinkled the most.
He is survived by his wife and best friend, Dorothy; his four children, Doug (Jana), Kirk, Brent (Jennifer), and Kory (Gay); his grandchildren Josh, Melissa Valdez (Albert), Dustin (Megan), Cody, Jake, Jeb (Ashley), Demi Jo Martin (Jordan), Quincee (Dyllon), Josie (Enver), Dallas, and Hannah; great-grandchildren Ryan, Lane, Alan, Ellsie, Maisie, Skylyn and Kiara. He was preceded in death by his parents, four brothers and a sister.
Services for Dad will be June 19, 2021. There will be a graveside service for family at 11 a.m. at the Spring Coulee Family Cemetery, followed by a Celebration of Life for all at 1 p.m. at Kory and Gay’s home, 47 Windy Hill Road, Okanogan WA 98840.
We would like to invite anyone who has a brand to bring their branding iron to the 1 p.m. service. We will have a Branding Board, and request that you burn your brand to honor Doc Heindselman. At the service, there will be an opportunity to share a story or memory about him if you wish. The service will be outside, so please be weather-conscious, as well as COVID-conscious.
There will be a viewing Friday, June 18, from 4-8 p.m. at Precht-Harrison-Nearents Chapel in Okanogan, who are in charge of arrangements.
Memorial donations may be made to Okanogan County Cattlemen/Cattlewomen Association, Scholarship Fund, at P.O. Box 683, Nespelem, WA 99155.