Obituary: Kathryn “Kay” Heist

Feb. 7, 1929 – Sept. 10, 2023

Kathryn “Kay” Heist of Sturgeon Bay passed away quietly, surrounded by family, on Sept. 10, 2023, of natural causes. Kay was born in Cambria County, Pennsylvania on Feb. 7, 1929, to Samuel and Verna (Golembeski) Holak. She was a coal miner’s daughter, raised in Jerome, Pennsylvania, and known to many as Kiki. She graduated from Conemaugh Township High School in Davidsville, Pennsylvania.

Kay married Merwillis “Merf” Heist on April 30, 1949, in Jerome at the Russian Orthodox Church. Together they had two children: Kathryn and Murphy.

Kay’s career was one of civil service. She started with the F.B.I. in Washington D.C. until marriage. After marriage, they started a family and had many moves. During that time, she held various positions at the naval bases to which Merf was attached as a U.S. Navy career man, however, the highlight of her career was being a secretary for President Eisenhower in Newport, Rhode Island at the summer Whitehouse. Merf retired from the Navy and moved the family to Sturgeon Bay in 1965. Kay eventually retired from civil service at Sup Ship Navy Office, Sturgeon Bay in May 1980. Merf and Kay spent their retirement golfing, with their grandchildren, and traveling to south Texas by motorhome for their winters until his passing in 2004.

Kay is survived by her children, Kathryn Johnson, Apache Junction, Arizona; Murphy (Angela) Heist, Yorktown, Virginia; son-in-law, Myron Johnson; grandchildren, Brandon (Leslie) Frea, Jennifer (Nick) Vogel, Adam Johnson, Murphy K Heist, and Scott (Brenda) Johnson; great-grandchildren, Alexander Frea, Brooke (Kyle) Kruse, Reese Vogel, Hayden Vogel, Jeremiah (Brianna) Johnson, Isaiah Johnson, Amos Johnson, Samuel Johnson, Lydia Johnson, and Elizabeth Johnson; as well as four great-great-grandchildren. She was preceded by her husband, Merwillis “Merf”; and her parents.

No services will be held in Sturgeon Bay. A private interment service will be held at a future date in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, where Merf has been waiting for her with a Budweiser in hand. Memorials may be made in Kay’s memory to VFW Post 3088, 744 Delaware Street, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235. Forbes Funeral Home is assisting the family. On-line condolences may be offered at

Special thanks to the Unity Hospice staff, especially Megan and Nichole for their wonderful care and support.