That’s what folks said about Clemens Himmelspach, who passed away at age 79 a week before Christmas at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, of complications from an aneurysm.
For a lot of years, including the years before Woodinville became a city, Clem was a big man in town.
And he was deeply loved and revered by his family who were by his side when it was time.
According to the family obituary sent to the Seattle Times, the farmer’s son — grandchild of German immigrants — rose from his bootstraps in hardscrabble Oliver County, North Dakota, met a girl from a neighboring farm and married sweetheart Leona Heck in 1954.
It was, daughter Paulette Bauman said, the all-American story.
They would have four children.
Clem worked for Northern Pacific Railroad before it went under and also gave two of his best years to the U.S. Army.
In 1968, at age 35, he and Leona moved their family to Seattle where Clem joined his brother-in-law Edward Heck in the window business, which relocated to Woodinville in 1970 and became known as Heck Window and Screen.
Later, after the business thrived, Clem and Ed purchased property and built, owned and operated H&H Mall in a section of what’s now known as downtown Woodinville.
Ed Heck passed away two years ago at 70 and was fondly remembered by tenants, who also remembered Clem.
Said Goodyear Tire owner Jim Johnson of Himmelspach: “I met Clem 33 years ago and he was a genuine guy, a stand-up guy. Anything he said, he’d do. His word was good. I’ll miss him.”
Said Anita Moreno Marcelo of Woodinville Licensing: “Clem was a kind, sweet man. He’d come around and fix our needed repairs in the office. I saw him not too long ago, maybe two weeks. We had a leak in our roof and he said ‘Don’t worry. I got it.’ He looked good; he always looked good.”
Said Erik Norgaard of Norgaard Optik: “I’ve known Clem for 11 years … Definitely a straight shooter, just an all-around, hard-working nice guy. Anything we needed, he was there.”
That reputation was not lost upon grandson Cody Bauman, 18, who enjoyed the traditional Sunday chicken soup his grandpa would cook up for his family, just in case they showed up — and someone always did.
“He was a big man in my life,” the Washington State University freshman said. “Everything he did was for his family.”
Cody said he visited his grandpa almost every Sunday while growing up and had more than his fair share of that chicken soup.
“He was like a second dad to me,” he said. “He gave me grandfatherly advice but he’d also knock my head if he thought I needed it. His No. 1 thing was making sure I did well at school; education was important to him.”
Cody paused for reflection a day after Christmas. “He was the definition of honest. Thing about him … he never beat around the bush; he told you what’s up.”
Cody’s mother, Paulette Bauman, said the holiday was tough for the Himmelspach clan, but they persevered as they were taught to do.
“My dad was very strong, kept to himself, silent to a point … but when he had something to say he was a direct man. Most of all he wanted his family to learn how to work hard. He was frugal — and that goes back to his upbringing — but generous at the same time.
“When he did speak, you listened,” she said. “He was a tough guy, but with a teddy-bear heart. He was really proud of his children and his grandchildren.”
Himmelspach is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, four adult children, seven grandchildren — and a no-nonsense reputation.