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Wilda Heiss was not your ordinary person - she was a true Renaissance soul! From her early days at Hamilton Jr. High, where she picked up the flute after her quest for a trumpet, to her time at Eastern High, where she honed her musical skills and earned a scholarship to Peabody Conservatory, Wilda's life has been a symphony. After graduating from Peabody with AA, BS and Master's degrees, Wilda graced the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with her flute-playing prowess and later became a music archivist at the Library of Congress, leaving an indelible mark on the world of music history. Her support for the Peabody Institute led to the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Heritage Award in 2015, an event that made her family so proud.
But that's not all! Wilda's passion for music extended beyond her sitting in the orchestra pit. She imparted her love for music to the younger generation of Heiss' too, teaching them about the wonders of the arts and sounds of the orchestra by supporting her nephews, nieces, and grandnieces' love of the piano, guitar, saxophone, and clarinet. These were just a few of the ways she nurtured everyone's musical playing talents. Vocally, Wilda could even sing the words to Handel's Messiah! This singing skill was unfortunately not given to anyone else in the family.
Wilda wasn't just a maestro of music; she became a photographer extraordinaire. Her pursuit of perfection in photography led to her desire to learn from Smithsonian instructors and cultivate her innate ability to capture people, places, and landscapes from around the globe. She published a book of her photographs, and some of them not only earned awards but they found special places in the hearts and on the walls of both family and friends. She personally printed and framed many of the works, then gave away the fruits of her labor to anyone who would cherish the art the way she did, as if any of us could.
Wilda's generosity shined throughout her life. Not just financially, or her volunteering to perform for plays, musicals, and quartets, but also as she shared photography tips she learned, donated supplies and cameras for photography classes, and even contributed the pieces of art from her collection that were part of a rotating exhibit at Peabody celebrating the talents of her 50th-anniversary graduating class. But what Wilda gave the most of was her time. Time to her friends, and most of all, time to her family. She took excellent care of her Aunt Helen, Aunt Bertha, and her beloved mother Catharine. In her time of need, even though many tried, no one could match the time and care Wilda gave to others. How could we? It seemed never-ending.
But wait, there's still more! Wilda was also an outdoorswoman through and through, with a love for sailing, hiking, and adventure. Her sailing days began on Stoney Creek, and she even let her brother Jack caulk the wooden sailboat each year! She's sailed rivers and hiked hundreds of kilometers. She literally wore her knees out. From the Galapagos Islands to South America to the Himalayas to Turkey to Europe, even Waldo couldn't find Wilda. She was a true travel enthusiast and loved planning trips and traveling with the many friends that she loved. Wilda traveled to the ends of the earth and has lived great experiences like witnessing the first sunrise of the new millennium in Nepal, camping in the Moroccan desert, and rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. She also cherished the beauty of places closer to home, like Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, and her adopted hometown of Washington, DC.
Wilda was also a competitive athlete, playing softball, basketball, and speedball, and even cheered on her favorite football teams, "Roll Tide!" and "Hail to the Redskins". No, Wilda would not have supported change: "Hail to the Commanders!". Doesn't have quite the same ring - perhaps her later-in-life hearing aids needed their batteries changed! Her athletic skills really shined when for 25 years, starting at the age of fifty, Wilda participated in the annual 50km Appalachian Trail Walk. Wow.
She really did everything with her own style! Wilda had a taste for personal transportation that was as diverse as her interests, from her orange convertible Karmann Ghia (rusted-out floor included) to motorcycles, sailboats, and kayaks. She did it all, getting the most out of an adventurous life. She bought quality and expected quality and performance from everything. Her trusty Honda wagon ran for over 200,000 miles! It had to - she had studied the manual inside and out and knew what was needed and when. The car had no choice since Wilda was so meticulously detail-oriented. Does that surprise you?
Wilda was truly unique, a special sister, aunt, coworker, and friend who was distinguished by her active lifestyle as well as her generous and thoughtful nature. And serving as a curator of cherished family treasures, she left a legacy of her family and her life through the gifting of refurbished heirlooms, beautifully painted portraits, and wonderful photographs. Her thoughtful gifts and surprise treasures from around the world brought joy to everyone who was lucky enough to be on her mind and in her life. And being part of Wilda's life was fantastic, and something we all will lovingly remember.
In the symphony of life, Wilda was the conductor, creating beautiful melodies of love, passion, and adventure for all who knew her. She was true a treasure in the Heiss family, and her legacy of music, photography, and love will resonate for generations to come!
Family will receive friends at the Harry H. Witzke's Family Funeral Home, 4112 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City, on Monday, September 25, 2023, from 10am - 12noon; where a funeral service will begin at 12 noon. A private family interment will be held at Parkwood Cemetery.