John Joseph Hetzner, 67, died peacefully at home on Dec. 1, 2017, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was a devoted family man, a loving husband to Susan (Hagle) and father to Calla. He was born on May 17th in San Francisco, and grew up in Los Gatos, Calif., when it still had apricot orchards. After his service in the US Air Force, he moved to Idaho and joined the small community of Red River in 1973. John was a busy man, always working at something. He was the caretaker at the Little Ponderosa Ranch, ran backhoe for Harley Hammond, made lumber with his mobile dimension sawmill, built lodgepole pine rocking horses, and had numerous other enterprises. John said his purpose was “grow trees, cut them down, build stuff”. But there was much more to the man that that. His passions also included whitewater rafting, camping, skiing, ice-fishing and 4-wheeler trekking. He was rarely without rock music in the background, and was generally whistling a song while he worked.
He loved spending time with his many close friends and was always willing to lend a hand. John and his brother, Rick, were born on the same day, one year apart, and grew up nearly as twins. They remained very close and John was devastated by the loss of his brother, an Air Force pilot, when Rick’s plane crashed on maneuvers in Scotland in 1980. Rick was just 29 and left behind his wife and two small daughters. John never recovered from the loss. In 1984, John found the “method of love” when he met his future wife Sue in Missoula, Mont. They were married a year later and spent the next 15 years building their first timber frame home and developing 10 acres on the Clark Fork River in Alberton, Mont. In 1988 they welcomed their daughter, Calla. Together they raised her to love the river, back country, dogs, horses and the land. John was fond of saying he was a Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, but he was self-taught and had a knack for solving problems. He was thrilled to get back to “too much land” in Idaho in 2000, when the family moved to Harpster. He launched into his second timber frame home, this time lovingly crafting each beam by harvesting and milling the timbers from the homesite itself. The home in Harpster is a work of art and a tribute to his vision and craftsmanship. After more than five years’ battle with cancer, John’s final goal was to attend the wedding of Calla and a young man he had also come to love, Jake McGarry, in May of this year. John loved his life and hated to leave it, as much as we all hated to lose him.
John was preceded in death by his parents, Hal and Tess Hetzner; and his beloved brother, Rick.
He is survived by wife, Susan; daughter, Calla; and son-in-law, Jake; sister-in-law, Jill Hazelton; nieces, Jennifer (Ray) Spinelli and Christy Schoos; sister, Terry (Charlie) Costa; several grand nephews and nieces; and his many dear friends who he loved as family.
Cremation has taken place. A celebration of John’s life will be held in May, his favorite time of year—contact family for details. Arrangements are under the direction of the Blackmer Funeral Home of Grangeville. Send condolences to the family to Blackmerfuneralhom
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