Rev. Gerald Hechenberger

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Rev. Gerald R. Hechenberger, 56, of Belleville, IL, born September 15, 1963, in Belleville, IL, passed away Friday, March 6, 2020, in Pinckneyville, IL.

Gerald graduated from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH.  He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1996.  He served as an associate pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Olney, IL, St. Edward Catholic Church, Fairfield, IL, St. Sebastian Catholic Church, Mount Carmel, IL, Holy Family Catholic Church, Cahokia, IL, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Dupo, IL, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Smithton, IL, and the sister parishes of Holy Childhood, Mascoutah, St. Pancratius, Fayetteville, IL, and St. Liborius Catholic Church, St. Libory, IL. Gerald was loved by his family, friends, and parishoners.  He will be greatly missed.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Shannon, nee Fenoughty, Hechenberger; a brother, Richard A. Hechenberger; and a nephew, Josiah Swope.

Surviving are two sisters, Mary Ann Swope and Nancy (Steven) Rueter, both of Belleville, IL;
a brother, Steve (Debby) Hechenberger of Melbourne, FL;
a sister-in-law, Barbara Hechenberger of Belleville, IL;
nieces and nephews;
and great-nieces and great-nephews.

A thank you is extended to sister-cousin Tracy Christ for helping Jerry as much as you did.

Memorials may be made to the Karla Smith Foundation or in the form of Masses.  Condolences may be expressed to the family online at

When I must leave you for a little while please do not grieve and shed wild tears
And hug your sorrow to you through the years.
But start out bravely with a gallant smile; And for my sake and in my name,
Live on and do all things the same, Feed not your loneliness on empty days,
But fill each waking hour in useful ways, Reach out your hand in comfort and in cheer
And I in turn will comfort you and hold you near;
And never, never be afraid to die, For I am waiting for you in the sky!

Visitation:  Friends may visit from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 12, 2020 at George Renner & Sons Funeral Home, Belleville, IL, and from 9 to 10 a.m. Friday, March 13, 2020, at St. Luke Catholic Church, Belleville, IL.

Funeral:  A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday, March 13, 2020, at St. Luke Catholic Church, Belleville, IL, with Msgr. David Darin officiating.


30 Comments on Rev. Gerald Hechenberger

Jaime Vidal said : Guest Report Nov 14, 2020 at 12:32 PM

I taught Jerry at the Josephinum, and have wonderful memories of him, He will always be in my daily prayers.

  • Quincy
  • Illinois
Doug Baldwin said : Guest Report Jun 26, 2020 at 9:17 PM

Condolences to the Hechenberger family. Gerry was an amazing man to my family and I. Here in Australia, he will always be remembered .

  • Melbourne
  • Victoria Australia
Christine Page said : Guest Report Apr 02, 2020 at 1:46 PM

Praying for Fr. Jerry, and may his family be comforted at this time. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.”

  • Woolwich
  • Maine
J. M. Nolan said : Guest Report Mar 25, 2020 at 11:14 PM

Please accept my sincere, utmost condolence on the death of Reverend Hechenberger. I met him once in 2001 while he officiated a relative's wedding, whom is also his niece. He was the utmost embodiment of Judaeo-Christian ethic. His life was a testament of Christ's love. Rest in peace, sir.

  • Tampa
  • Florida
Mykolas K. said : Guest Report Mar 18, 2020 at 11:49 PM

May sorrow be turned into joy; may mourning be turned into dancing and may death be turned into life. May the memory of God's servant and priest Gerald be eternal; may he see the living God face-to-face.

  • Dallas
  • Texas
Geri Kirchgraber Warner said : Guest Report Mar 14, 2020 at 10:42 AM

I’m so sad to hear of Jerry’s passing. Some of my fondest memories of my years at Althoff have Jerry in them. His big laugh, loving heart and beautiful voice always made everything we did more fun. Riding the bus together in the morning, chorus and the plays were all better for having Jerry there. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. May you rest easy, Jerry. <3

  • Palm Bay
  • FL
Julie Guetterman said : Guest Report Mar 14, 2020 at 1:20 AM

I was so sad to hear of Jerry's passing. Jerry and I had such fun in high school. We would hang out in his family's basement talking and singing for hours. He taught me how to do an Irish brogue. So much laughter! Sending much love to all of Jerry's friends and family tonight. Rest in Peace friend❤

  • Chicago
  • Il
Keith Hoerner said : Guest Report Mar 13, 2020 at 9:35 PM

I Will Not Say Goodbye (Eulogy For Jerry Hechenberger) Good morning, my name is Keith Hoerner and Jerry is my friend. When I first met Jerry in 1978, I was a sophomore in high school, and he was a freshman. We had both just tried out for the same part in the spring musical at Althoff. I had already auditioned, and here came this beautiful voice floating down the hallway. A Pavarotti voice. A that’s-not-fair-he’s-gonna-kick-my-ass kinda voice. And he did. When Jerry was finished, I walked up to him, introduced myself, and told him how good he was. But when it came to singing, Jerry knew that. It wasn’t arrogance; it was confidence... something I lacked at the time, and I think that’s what first impressed me about Jerry. He was confident—and kind. 1 of 6 This kindness will show itself in many ways as I say, not goodbye, but ‘till then, to our dear friend, brother, cousin, uncle, and father in faith... After meeting, Jerry said he was off to run by his sister Mary Ann’s house (this is when I first met you Mary Ann), and I said that I’d walk with him. Why? I don’t know. I just wanted to. With his talent, I expected he might be a little off-putting. But he wasn’t. As I said, he was kind. I’m sure I babbled on, as I am prone to do. He listened, was contemplative, and thoughtful before he spoke. I wasn’t blessed with this kind of filter. I didn’t realize it at the time, struggling through a rough upbringing, that I needed someone who would listen to me (and in time counsel me) like Jerry did, so God dropped him in my path. 2 of 6 I remember high school parties where Jerry’s antics, humor, and outrageous laughter carried the night. He could be mischievous. A real shit disturber to be honest. Stirring the pot to outrageously good times. Eppy and Shannon would listen—smilingly—until late in the wee hours as a group of us inevitably found our way to their basement and knocked about taking part in no good whatsoever. We even got checked on at times by Mary Ann, Nancy, Rick, or Barb (whoever might be visiting at the time). 42 years later, I can still see their silhouetted heads bent forward, bobbing down the stairs—probably afraid of what they might find. Often, I would sleep over on a Friday or Saturday, and be treated to Jerry’s cooking the next morning. He wouldn’t accept help, other than to clean up. Eppy, Shannon, and I would sit and talk as he created a veritable country buffet. Soooo, much food. But, you see... Mary Ann, Nancy, Steve, it wasn’t just food he 3 of 6 was serving. It was love. He was sharing your Mom and Dad with me. Jerry let them dote on me, give me his attention, because he knew at that time in my life, I needed it. This touchstone of normality propelled me forward. This is just one example of the Jerry Heckenberger’s kindness. I think back to walking with Jerry that first time and believe his ability to listen, counsel, and lift-up the spirits of others is what made him a good priest. The insight to counsel came from being intelligent on-top of talented. To my knowledge, Jerry went on from his Bachelor’s Degree in Music and Education to earn not one, but two Master’s Degrees while in the Seminary. I’ll call him out as a bit of a show-off on that one. About the same time he was collecting his diplomas and settling in his first parish, I got married. I didn’t 4 of 6 have a lot of groomsmen. I had three: my twin Kevin, my brother, Joe, and Jerry. That’s because Jerry was a brother to me. It's funny. I remember asking Jerry, “Jerry, do you want to sing in the wedding or be in the wedding?” He replied, “Please, I sing in so many weddings; I’d really like to sit this one out.” The period from college to getting married stretched into my late twenties. Jerry, Ann, John, and I (all tight high-school friends) stayed in touch and frequently got together. The good times continued. Then, as life happens, we saw each other less frequently, but we built that awesome kind of friendship —where you meet up, and you are in that zone, where you continue right from where you left off. 5 of 6 Jer, in your life, you did many corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. You earned your grace points—as I say. I will forever be thankful for God bringing you into my life. You’re with your Mom and Dad, yuckin’ it up, right? And Rick and Josh. We pray for your eternal rest with Jesus Christ... Your beautiful voice aloft in heaven’s hallways... Jerry, I will not say, “goodbye”—only ‘till then.

  • Murphysboro
  • IL
Mary Anne Lucarelli said : Guest Report Mar 12, 2020 at 7:41 PM

My sincere sympathy to family and friends of Jerry. I have fond memories of our time together at St Albert the Great. We all loved working with him. He was a man of many talents and a kind heart. He is in my prayers. May he Rest In Peace!

  • Fairview Heights
  • IL
Kerry Oesterle said : Guest Report Mar 12, 2020 at 7:23 PM

Open Letter from Kerry Oesterle Written 2 days before Jerry passed Dear Jerry, Well Hello Stranger. I wanted to send my love to you. I'm not sure you realize the impact you had on my life as a teenager. I tried out for volleyball, got cut. Tried out for Pom Poms, got cut.I thought "Well, I love the choir and signing - I'm not great, but, not awful" Next thing KI knew my mom was bringing me to your house after school for lessons. You wanted to start with The Rose by Bette Midler. So we practiced until I got it perfect. And I made the choir at Belleville East and stayed in the choir all 4 years.I couldn't have done it without you.And then 12 years later you sang the "Ave Maria" at my Grandma Gail's funeral.Jerry, it was so gorgeous and heartfelt. I still think how you sang it to this day. Thank you for that.I know we didn't see each other much after we moved to Atlanta, but I thought of you often.Your heart is so loving! You're a great person!I want you to know that you are loved and you are a kind soul. Love you, Kerry Oesterle

  • Lawrenceville
  • Georgia
Betty Dauphin said : Guest Report Mar 12, 2020 at 6:17 PM

I taught with Jerry at St.Albert the Great School before he entered the priesthood. We will always remember his laughter and good cheer. And again, I caught up with him at St John the Baptist in Smithton, when he baptized our grandson. I will remember him always for the joy and love of God that he had.

  • Fairview Heights
  • Il
Dee Reed said : Guest Report Mar 12, 2020 at 2:50 PM

Holy Family is a strong, historic parish because of the Leadership, kindness and gentleness of Father Jerry. We all are saddened by his pain + suffering. We pray for eternal rest. Dee + John Reed ⚜??

  • Saint Louis
Ginger DeWeese said : Guest Report Mar 11, 2020 at 4:32 PM

I knew Gerry in college and we immediately had a bond both being from Belleville. We were in choir and a group of us from that choir became family. We get together every few years to reminisce and enjoy being together again. He was always laughing, fun, a gentle giant and a great big brother to many of us. The Gerry from the newspaper isn't the Gerry I knew. My sympathies and prayers are with all of you.

  • TX
Wendy Uhl said : Guest Report Mar 11, 2020 at 4:21 PM

Be at peace, Fr. Jerry. I'll remember the laughs and hugs the most. ❤

  • Mascoutah
  • IL
Lisa Marie McDonald said : Guest Report Mar 10, 2020 at 8:54 PM

Dear Mary Ann and Nancy, My mom and I loved Father Jerry and spent a lot of time with him. He was a wonderful priest and a great friend. He even sang karaoke with me and we went out to eat with him and I enjoyed his company. He used to imitate Elvis and say thank you very much. I know what kind of person he was and I know he was a good person and I know he wouldn't hurt anyone, because he was a kind, loving and caring man and I was proud to know him. Love Lisa

  • Waterloo Formally from Dupo
  • Ill.
Chris L Beykirch said : Guest Report Mar 10, 2020 at 7:52 PM

My condolences to the family of Father Jerry. Jerry was a good classmate at Althoff and I will remember him as a faithful and good person.

  • Aurora
  • Illinois
henrietta eckleberry said : Guest Report Mar 10, 2020 at 2:47 PM

Father Jerry was highly respected and loved at St. Edwards Church. Father was there for us during the fatal illness of my husband, he holds a special place in our hearts.

  • fairfield
  • il
Bill Graves said : Guest Report Mar 10, 2020 at 1:50 AM

Father Jerry was a good pastor and friend while at Holy Family Cahokia. His physical pain is over and he can rest in God's merciful embrace.

  • Sauget
  • Illinois
Keith Hoerner said : Guest Report Mar 09, 2020 at 9:12 PM

To My Friend, Jerry Hechenberger From Keith I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads his white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. He is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch him until at length he hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then, someone at my side says: "There, he is gone!" "Gone where?" Gone from my sight that is all. He is just as large in mast and hull and spar as he was when he left my side, and he is just as able to bear his load of living freight to his destination. His diminished size is in me, not in him. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There, he is gone!" There are other eyes watching him coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: "Here he comes!"

  • Murphysboro
  • IL
Mary Barbara (Lohmann)Kurtz said : Guest Report Mar 09, 2020 at 8:50 PM

To the Hechenberger Family.... I remember Gerry very fondly from Althoff. He was always smiling, he made chorus and the plays so much fun and he had a beautiful voice. My thoughts are with all of you. May he rest in peace.

  • Belleville
  • IL
Kevin Wade said : Guest Report Mar 09, 2020 at 1:20 PM

Dear Hechenberger family, I am sad to hear the news of Gerry's passing. I will always remember his beautiful voice and all of the good times that we had during the musicals in high school, mixed chorus and the Men's Ensemble. Rest in peace.

  • Fairview Heights
  • IL
GENE MORGAN said : Guest Report Mar 09, 2020 at 2:26 AM

You buried my wife from Sr.Joseph

  • Smithton
  • Ily
Sherri LaCroix and family said : Guest Report Mar 09, 2020 at 12:23 AM

My deepest sympathy to Father Jerry’s Family. He was there for our family through the death of our grandmother and my father. He was an amazing priest with the knowledge and wisdom of being a caring human being even through his own pain. He helped each of us to move through the deaths in our family through prayer and allowing us to realize that God is with us through all our pain. I know God was with Fr Jerry’s through his. God bless you and thank you for being there for us.

  • East Carondelet
  • Illinois
Fr. Karl Schilken said : Guest Report Mar 08, 2020 at 3:16 PM

Please be assured of my prayers for Gerald. I have been aware of this story only through the news. Remember that Gerald is now commended to the mercy of Christ whose love, patience, and kindness is beyond human understanding. Also thank you Bishop Braxton for the public call for prayers for Gerald.

  • Fort Worth
  • Texas
Mary Murphy said : Guest Report Mar 08, 2020 at 3:13 PM

Fr. Jerry worked miracles in our parish at Fairfield! My husband was baptized and our daughter made her first communion with him. We will pray for him and all of you!

  • Cisne
  • Illinois
Marilyn Vornbaum said : Guest Report Mar 08, 2020 at 2:25 PM

Dear MaryAnn and Family, May God comfort you in this time of sorrow. May Gerry rest in peace.

  • IL
Fran Cavanaugh Dacus said : Guest Report Mar 08, 2020 at 2:27 AM

Am so sad to hear of Fr. Jerry's passing. He was such a great priest and friend. As the family probably knows I was his Secretary at St. Edward. He will always be remembered. God bless all of you.

  • Gilbertsville
  • Ky
Barbie Sax Duncan said : Guest Report Mar 08, 2020 at 12:15 AM

Dear Heckenberger Family, I am so sorry to hear the sad news of Fr. Jerry’s passing. We shared much fun and many wonderful memories during our high school days, performing in the musicals. I know he is at peace now-prayers for all of you.

  • Belleville
  • Il
Mary Kay Pritchett said : Guest Report Mar 07, 2020 at 7:19 PM

So sorry to hear this! He was a troubled man.

  • mascoutah
  • IL
joanne jung said : Guest Report Mar 07, 2020 at 7:12 PM

to fr jerry's family: my sincere sympathy to you all incl cousin tracy! prayers for father's soul and for all of you!

  • mascoutah
  • il

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