Paul Hettenbach

Paul R Hettenbach

Monday, April 7th, 1952 - Tuesday, October 13th, 2020
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Paul R. Hettenbach completed his earthly journey on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at his family home in Abilene, Kansas.

He is survived by his wife, Joann (Holt), three children and five grandchildren.
Andra Dunn and her children Sean Hettenbach and Kasey Dunn of Watagua, TX.
Stacia (Tyler) Brown and their son, Liam of Frisco, TX.
David (Alison) Hettenbach, their two sons, Elijah and Harrison of Westfield, IN.

He is also survived by his four siblings: Susie (John) Kummer of Chapman, Bruce (Judy) Hettenbach of Abilene, Mary (Robert) Taylor of Abilene, and Karen (Dave) Crouch of Emporia; 6 nieces and 3 nephews.

Paul attended schools in his hometown and graduated from Abilene High School with the class of 1970. He was looking forward to seeing many of his classmates at his 50th year class reunion that was postponed due to the pandemic. He played many sports throughout his school years, but basketball and football held a major place in his memory. He was selected all NCKL guard his junior year. As student council president his senior year, he found himself working closely with administrators and teachers, never dreaming that he would be again meeting and planning with many of them due to his 24 year service on the Abilene USD 435 School Board.

Following high school, he attended Kansas State University, receiving his BS in Business Administration in 1974. He enjoyed telling people that he worked as house boy at West Hall girl’s dormitory where he had a small apartment with responsibility of keeping a certain amount of order and locking doors at night. There were two major perks. First, he never ate alone as there were always tables of girls he could join at the Derby Food Service. As great as that was, he considered having his own reserved parking spot on campus to be the biggest reward.

In 1974, he married Joann and they moved to Dodge City, Kansas where he worked as parts manager for Foley Tractor. After two and a half years of wind and dust and wind, they returned to Abilene where Paul went into business with his father as part owner/operator of Hettenbach Construction Company. When his father retired, he assumed full ownership and continued building terraces, waterways, ponds, dams, road approach grading, digging holes in the ground, leveling foundation sites, and maybe his favorite task of crunching up old buildings to be cleared away. There was really nothing he liked better than climbing into a Caterpillar bulldozer or excavator and wreaking havoc and then smoothing it all out to complete a project. He was on a job site when he succumbed to a cancer related infection that landed him back at KU Med Center for three weeks. He came back home with the full intent of finishing up a terracing project for a local farmer only to find himself back at KUMC for another week. He returned home to Hospice care and died two weeks later.

Paul was a man of faith and a life-long member of the Abilene First United Methodist Church, where he served on nearly all committees, some, multiple times. The one thing he never joined was the choir (for good reason). He was a member of the Kansas Land Improvement Contractors Association for over 50 years where he held every office and continued on as treasurer for several years until his death. He received the Contractor of the Year Award in 1991 and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work and service to the organization in 2019. Nothing made him happier than to bring a new member into the group he cared so much about. He was a member of Abilene’s Early Morning Breakfast Group that met at a number of restaurants around town, if the restaurant opened early enough. In case you wonder, these are the men who have all the answers to whatever problem is facing the city, and sometimes may actually solve one. He was a board member for Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad and supported the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo. He contributed nearly 18 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross.

Paul was a man of many friends; he loved telling jokes and laughed wholeheartedly; he fixed broken things; he knew every road in Dickinson County and many surrounding areas; he was a social person who never forgot a name or face; he was known by many children as the ‘high-five’ guy; Paul loved the community’s children and followed with great interest their accomplishments from their early years through high school and beyond; he avidly followed high school sports and rarely missed home games; he knew the kids of Abilene and reveled in their academic accomplishments. He was a member of a scholarship committee and would bring home stacks of applications. He read hundreds of essays from beginning to end and followed the success of many young students.

He loved Kansas State Football and was a season ticket holder for 24 years. He loved tailgating and roamed the parking lot talking to fellow fans.

His greatest pride was his grandchildren and the feeling was mutual. He loved roughhousing and floor play. They begged for tickles and somersaults and being lifted over his head. Their love was full of giggles and screams and laughter. But their favorite activity was when he took them to the machines and he taught them to move the excavator and dig up dirt piles. They would ride in the bulldozer and dump truck and ask for more. They just wanted to be with him, and life was good for all of them.

Paul was a man of hard work who took pride in moving and shaping the earth. He was strong with great physical strength. He survived colon cancer and returned to work; he survived esophageal cancer with all its after effects and returned to work; he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, took treatments alternate weeks and returned to work. Work was the thing that kept him alive and happy. He endured so much during these various battles and rarely complained.

Paul was a helper. When there was a snow storm coming, he would be out in the dark getting the equipment ready for the following day, and up before dawn to clear parking lots and driveways. When the Chapman tornado hit late in the evening, he got the call at 11:30 p.m. to haul a machine over to help clear streets and find residents. If there was an ice storm that caused a power outage, he loaded up the generator and was out to heat up homes for sick and elderly residents. He wasn’t afraid to dig in and push forward to help others. He was a man of the community and we don’t even yet know the many things we will miss because he is no longer with us. So pay attention to the thunder because it might be Paul pushing and shoving the clouds around.

Due to the pandemic, the family will plan a Celebration of Life service at a later date. The family suggests memorial contributions be made to: KLICA (Kansas Land Improvement Contractors of America) Scholarship Fund; Home Health and Hospice of Dickinson County; Abilene First United Methodist Church and may be sent to Martin-Becker-Carlson Funeral Home, 414 NW 3rd Street, Abilene, Kansas 67410.
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Casey Garten

Posted at 04:38pm
Paul was a neighbor, but more importantly for me, an idol of mine in athletics and student activities. When I visualized what I might be like on the football field, I envisioned the way that Paul played the game. I also believe that he set the standard for me to pursue in being involved in school activities in high school and college. A great guy.

Katie Witwer Haag

Posted at 10:43pm
My sympathy and prayers to Joann and family! It was an honor to go to school and graduate in the same class with Paul! May he rest in peace with God! He will be missed! Such a great guy! God Bless! Love and Hugs Joann!

Rita Ross

Posted at 08:58pm
Joann and family, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of such an indelible soul. I did not know Paul, but it is clear that he made a deep impression on those who did know him, and he will be missed terribly. It is also clear that he will be remembered fondly, and perhaps with humor from time to time. Please accept my warmest thoughts for you all, and my condolences.

Kathy Horan

Posted at 12:19pm
Paul was influential in my life in so many ways. He was Student Body President when I was a freshman and I looked up to him then. He was a parent of three of my students and was always so supportive of my work with his children. He was a member of the School Board and I remember him frequently visiting the school to see for himself what the district was doing. He ALWAYS asked my opinion of policies and was a very good listener. Even after my retirement, he would visit with me whenever I saw him around. He was a true leader. The community will have a hard time filling the hole he has left behind. My heart goes out to Andra, Stacia, David and Joann. We are all better because we knew him.

Sheila Holt

Posted at 09:24am
We have lost a truly good man with a heart of gold. Paul’s absence will be felt by so many, but we can take comfort knowing he is home and we will see him again. In the meantime, he will be watching over all of us and still guiding us in a new way. R.I.P. Paul; your pain is gone, and in time when some of our sadness eases your memory will make us smile and feel comfort in our hearts.

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