Lonnie Heckmaster, 67, (October 7, 1954-March 29, 2022)—dear friend of artCentral and artCentral artists—he was a visionary and a teacher and the kindest of kind men.
I knew how to dream of a marriage because, speaking of a treasure, Lonnie told me about his courtship and his marriage with his beloved, Terri—his true love. He told me of their shared joy in their son, his wife and their grandchildren.
He told me of Terri’s flare for fashion and her dedication to her role as President of the Precious Moments Foundation. Each summer when I admired the stunningly magnificent begonias that flourished in large planters on the Heckmasters’ front porch balustrade, Lonnie the caregiver was always quick to demure, “I am just following Terri’s instructions.”
I knew how to dream of serving artCentral because Lonnie befriended me and role modeled leadership as the President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Hometown Bancshares. Along with a great depth of knowledge in banking, Lonnie held a deeply grounded belief in the importance of making a difference in the cultural well-being of our community. As artCentral’s treasurer and wise financial adviser, he mentored this novice director-curator and guided me and artCentral’s board of directors in reaching out for community support.
Out their door went Lonnie Heckmaster. Quickly he was recruited by Old Missouri Bank where he served as the market leader for OMB’s expansion into Carthage. When artCentral sought exhibition underwriting assistance, Lonnie made that happen, and Old Missouri Bank’s logo was proudly, prominently displayed on artCentral’s gallery walls.
Some Native American tribes understand the owl as a symbol of bravery and protection. In contemporary Western culture, owls are synonymous with wisdom and knowledge. A bespectacled wise owl is found in childhood stories like "Winnie the Pooh".
One afternoon driving a back road to Joplin, I saw the legendary Prosperity owl sitting calmly erect and attentive on a fence post very near the old, two-story red brick Prosperity Schoolhouse. His majestic head serenely watched my approach. He waited. His wings did not ruffle or flap. His body did not rise up in flight. As I pulled over to the roadside to watch him, the owl’s eyes never left me—just cast a steady gaze. Driving on, in the mirror I looked back. Still the Prosperity Owl sat watching—watching until I made the corner, and we lost sight of one another.
Like the Prosperity Owl, Lonnie Heckmaster is keeping artCentral in his sights, for he has chosen Art Central Carthage, along with the Jasper County Youth Fair, Inc., as recipients for his memorials. I am so very thankful he is watching over us still as he is spreading his wings and ascending into the company of the heavenly heights waiting to receive him.