Harvey Hieken, businessman known for generosity, dies at 94

By Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

“If you’re going to do something, do it right!” was a favorite saying of businessman philanthropist Harvey Hieken, who passed away peacefully at his Chesterfield home June 21 at the age of 94.

Indeed Mr. Hieken “did it right” for all of his 94 years, personally, professionally and philanthropically. He possessed boundless energy until declining health forced him to slow down for the past couple of years.  His was, as the expression goes, “a life well lived” on every level.

Mr. Hieken and his brother Milton were longtime students in the Jewish Current Events class I taught for the Center for Jewish Learning. For each class, I would bring copies of print newspapers, including the latest issue of the Jewish Light. With his gentle smile, he would open the Light to the obituaries page and say:  

“OK, I’m not on the list, so you can start teaching, but when the time comes, Bob, give me a nice obit.” 

And it is an honor to give Harvey Hieken more than “a nice obit.” He was gifted intellectually, successful in business, the patriarch of a loving family, role model, father figure and the very definition of the word mensch. His wife of 70 years, the former Terry Lazar, was always at Harvey’s side in their robust, happy marriage. 

Mr. Hieken was born June 10, 1926, in Granite City, Ill., the son of Samuel and Margaret Issacs Hieken. 

Mr. Hieken enlisted in the Army in 1944 and served in the Pacific during World War II. 

Harvey Hieken took over the family business, a clothing and jewelry store called Hieken’s, after the sudden death of his father.

Mr. Hieken’s brother, Milton Hieken, recalled, “he was only 22 when our dad died, and he took over the family business and was successful. From that point on, Harvey was not only a great brother but a surrogate dad, and was equally great in that role.”

Mr. Hieken sold the business in 1973 and went on to succeed in other business ventures, including Associated Service Corp., which he started in 1980. Mr. Hieken retired from and sold the business when he was 92.

He was a loyal lifetime member of Congregation B’nai Amoona and served on its board, as well as on those of the Jewish Light and B’nai B’rith St. Louis. He was deeply involved with and a major supporter of Jewish Federation of St. Louis, the Jewish Community Center and its St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, and Covenant Place, the nonprofit senior living complex on the I.E. Millstone Jewish Community Campus.

Harvey and Terry Hieken shared a fact-driven approach to community needs. In 2014, when then-Federation president and CEO Andrew Rehfeld urged backing for the organization’s first local Jewish demographic study in more than a decade, the Hiekens gave major financial support to the project.

The Hiekens were also generous supporters of the Jewish Light and were members of its Publisher’s Society.

Several community leaders of organizations in which Mr. Hieken was active praised his compassion and generosity.

“Whenever I spoke to Harvey, he never talked about himself,” said Lester Goldman, a past president of B’nai Amoona. “It was always about Terry or his brother (Charles), who was a Harvard-educated patent attorney, or about his parents and how proud he was that his parents were married at B’nai Amoona by Rabbi Adolph Rosentreter, our first [longterm] rabbi. He also spoke often about his brother Milton, his children and grandchildren.”

Among the many projects the Hiekens supported at B’nai Amoona was the renovation of a conference room, which is named in honor of Mr. Hieken’s parents, Goldman said. 

“I think most of all, Harvey was a good person you could depend on and whose instinct was to be of help,” he said. “He was a person who was always a pleasure to be with.”

Joan Denison, president and CEO of Covenant Place, said the Hiekens have been longtime supporters of Covenant Place. 

“Harvey and Terry’s decadeslong [involvement] with Covenant Place and generous philanthropy have been an expression of their care and concern for the residents’ quality of life,” she said. “Harvey was filled with joy when he could help others and was excited to support the capital campaign and see the completion of the Covenant Place II Cahn Family Building. A true, kind mensch of a man.”

A private graveside funeral was held at B’nai Amoona Cemetery, where Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose and Hazzan Sharon Nathanson officiated.

In addition to his wife, survivors include daughters Shelley (Bruce) Edwards and Andrea (Mike Jennings) Mintz, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, and siblings Milton (Barbara Barenholtz) Hieken and Suzanne (Paul) Cohan. He was preceded in death by his brother Charles (the late Donna) Hieken.

Contributions in Mr. Hieken’s memory can be made to the charity of your choice.