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Municipality mourns for its leader

Lori Penner
R.M. of Rhineland reeve Grant Heinrichs passed away Sept. 25 after a 10 month battle with cancer. Heinrichs will be remembered for his "back to basics" approach and his passion for municipal affairs.

R.M. of Rhineland reeve Grant Heinrichs passed away Sept. 25 after a 10 month battle with cancer. Heinrichs will be remembered for his "back to basics" approach and his passion for municipal affairs.

R.M. of Rhineland reeve Grant Heinrichs fought cancer with the same calm tenacity that he ran his political campaign.

But after nearly a year of relentless health challenges, Heinrichs passed away Sept. 25 at the Altona Health Centre. He was 60 years old. He leaves to mourn his wife Gloria, his daughter Jill and son-in-law Derek.

Heinrichs dedicated much of his life to serving others. He spent 10 years on the Sun Valley Co-op board, and was with the Gretna board of Manitoba Pool and Letellier board of Agricore for a total of 15 years. He also coached girls hockey and was on the W.C. Miller Parents Advisory Council for three years.

Farming near Halbstadt for over three decades gave him a strong connection to the region and its needs.

He had a heart for the people of the municipality and the issues they faced, particularly in terms of flooding. In his opinion, this ongoing, fundamental problem needed to be dealt with first. One goal was to bring in engineers to finally help the municipality manage all its annual standing water.

Heinrichs advocated a back to basics approach in his campaign during the Oct. 27, 2010 election.

He insisted on fiscal responsibility and full disclosure to taxpayers.

This, and his demand for better drainage and road maintenance got the attention of voters, and he edged out two other candidates for the position.

But less than a month after taking office, Heinrichs learned he was about to face an even tougher campaign.

The newly-elected reeve barely had time to celebrate his victory before being diagnosed with cancer of the stomach and esophagus on Nov. 12. For the next 10 months, his political duties were sidelined by intense chemotherapy treatments at Boundary Trails Health Centre and at Cancer Care at HSC in Winnipeg.

Deputy reeve Don Wiebe performed the head of council duties as Heinrichs received treatment.

"As a council, we were just starting to get to know Grant before his unfortunate diagnosis," Wiebe said. "He attended as many meetings as he could."

Heinrichs continued to fight the battle of his life, still making an effort to represent the people who voted for him. He received a standing ovation for the heartfelt speech he delivered during the Altona Maroons Hockey Club 60th anniversary celebration on July 17.

"It was important to him that he be there to represent the R.M. and the team," said Menno H. Friesen, who played on the Maroons with Heinrichs when he was just 15. "He was a strong, fun-loving guy. There are Maroons, and then there are true Maroons. Grant was a true Maroon. It's hard to believe he's gone."

The R.M. of Rhineland council and staff were deeply saddened to hear about his passing.

Rhineland CAO Mike Rempel said Heinrichs participated as a member of council as much as his health permitted.

"He provided insight and guidance to a variety of council decisions," Rempel said. "He worked hard to represent the people of the municipality, their interests and their needs. Council members have appreciated his cooperative nature and his passion for municipal affairs."

Wiebe added, "Grant kept himself very current. He was always very supportive. He had a very logical, focused, practical approach, always asking, 'What makes sense?' before making any decisions."

"It was very difficult to watch him decline like that. He will be very missed."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gloria, Jill and Derek, and their extended families and friends in this time of grief."

Wiebe will continue to perform head of council duties until a by-election can be held in the near future.

The funeral service for Grant Heinrichs will take place Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. at the Altona EMM Church with burial at the Halbstadt Cemetery.



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