The Rev. Robert Boyden Hedges, age 88, died peacefully Saturday morning, February 22, 2014, at his home in San Angelo, Texas surrounded by family.
Robert was born to Walter Raleigh Hedges and Rachel Boyden Hedges on February 24, 1925 in Farson, Iowa. He and his family moved to Hedrick when he was three. He graduated from Hedrick High School in 1942. He was the valedictorian of his class. That June, he graduated from the Ottumwa Conservatory of Music where he studied piano. At 17 years of age, he entered Drake University in Des Moines.
He served his country as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 in the 8th US Army Air Force during World War II. By his 19th birthday, he had flown numerous missions as part of the European theater, most notably fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
From 1946-1949, Robert served as an artillery intelligence officer in Tokyo, Japan. He taught English to the Japanese, climbed Mt. Fuji twice, and while in Japan, he found the Episcopal Church through its military chaplaincy and was confirmed by the Bishop of the Armed Forces. In 1949, he resumed his education at Drake University. He graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science (Phi Beta Kappa).
While at Drake, he met Carole Simpson and they married in 1951. After Lieutenant Hedges served a year in the Korean conflict (IX Corps Artillery), he and his wife moved to New York City where he entered the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. He was ordained deacon in 1954 and priest in 1955. He began ordained ministry as Curate of St. Paul's Church in Des Moines, and then as founding Rector of St. Timothy's Church in West Des Moines, where he served for 26 years.
For 21 years, he served as a chaplain in the Iowa National Guard, the last nine years as State Chaplain. He rose to the rank of Colonel, and at retirement, he was given the rank of honorary Brigadier General. Father Bob was a 33 degree member and a Past Master of Kadosh of the Des Moines Consistory. He belonged to the West Des Moines Kiwanis Club.
His first marriage ended in divorce. In 1976, he married Laurel Markham. In 1982, Father Bob became the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo, Texas, where he served until 1992. Laurel Hedges died in 2002.
Known for his love of people and of life, and his willingness to hug any and all, Father Bob did not grasp the concept of 'retirement.' He served as Interim Minister at St. John's Church in Naperville, Illinois, St. Paul's Church in Brady, Texas, and at San Angelo's First Christian Church. He even played a Lutheran minister in the film What's Eating Gilbert Grape, which was written by his son, Peter.
He had been a pastoral assistant and Chaplain at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in San Angelo since 1994. His lifelong love of music led to his serving 31 years on the San Angelo Symphony Board of Directors. For nearly 40 years he traveled the country on behalf of his beloved college fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, working with countless young men in the area of alcohol awareness and drug abuse as well as serving on the faculty of their annual leadership school. He was awarded SAE's highest honor, The Distinguished Service Award. He volunteered in several alcohol and chemical dependency programs and treatment facilities. For the last 20 years, he served as an AIDS volunteer.
When he learned that his cancer was inoperable, he accepted the news with grace. "I wish the news were better," he said. "But I've had a wonderful life. At almost 89 years, how can I complain?"
Father Bob devoted his life to serving God and helping others. Over his 58 year ministry, he touched thousands of lives. He will be greatly missed.
He is survived by his four children: Mary Clare (Daniel) Evans, Joel, Peter (Susan) and Philip Hedges. Five Step Children: Jan (Tom) Adams, Paul (Ruth) Markham, Bruce (Kathy) Markham, Dave Markham and Suzanne (Pete) Graham. Thirty Grandchildren:
Stephen and Alexander Evans, Rachel (Philip) Clark, Michelle, Simon, Lucas, Jennifer, Timothy and Allie Hedges, Trish (Mike) Heins, Carrie (Kurt) Kuhlman, Christy (Tim) Decker, Susan (John) King, Marcus (Carrie) Thoendel, Matthew (Amanda) Thoendel, Billy Adams, Bryan (Nicole) Adams, Michael Adams, Joe (Laura) Markham, Cynthia Miller, Scott (Marci) Miller, Aimee (Mike) Turner, Eric Markham, Adam (Amanda) Markham, Anne (Clint) Walker, Kyle Markham, Alan (Lora) Roberts, Chris (Ann) Roberts, Katie and Courtney Graham. And 27 Great Grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Barbara Smith of Ottumwa, and nephews Kim and Kriss Smith.
A celebration of his life will be held at First Christian Church, 29 Oakes Street, in San Angelo at 11 AM on Friday, February 28th. The Episcopal Bishop of Northwest Texas, the Rt. Rev. James Scott Mayer will be presiding. Visitation is from 5 PM to 8 PM, Thursday, February 27, 2014, in the Chapel at Johnson's Funeral Home. At 7 PM, family and friends will be welcome to share personal reflections and stories about Father Bob.
At a later date, a celebration of Father Bob's life will be held at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in West Des Moines, IA.
In lieu of flowers Memorial Gifts may be made to be to St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, 1020 24th Street, West Des Moines, IA. 50265.
Published in the Des Moines Register on Feb. 26, 2014.