In Memoriam: Millie Heischmidt Stevens

Remembering longtime Mensa member Millie Heischmidt Stevens, who passed away March 1, 2009 at age 77

By Nadine McBeth

A long time Mensa member, Millie Heischmidt Stevens passed away March 1, 2009 of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). She will be remembered and missed by her many friends in Mensa.

Born in Altamont, IL March 24, 1931, she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Math and a Master's in Information Technology. She is survived by her only child, Debbi Rice.

Millie started the annual book sale at HalloweeM and ran it from its inception in 1987 until 1992; after a three-year break she again spearheaded the sale from 1996 until 2002. She was a member of the Poetry SIG, hosting it frequently. A party animal, she was noted for doing the unexpected and for laughing a lot. She was awarded Chicago Mensa's Long Term Outstanding Service Award in 2004 for her work with the book sale.

Almost seventy years old and out of work, she was surprised when ALS was diagnosed. It started out with weakness and pain in her arms and such symptoms are vague enough to make the cause hard to diagnose. She survived much longer than most people with ALS do, gradually changing her lifestyle as the disease progressed. Always anxious to try the new and different, she had a motorized scooter delivered to the hotel for a HalloweeM weekend; she proceeded to terrorize partygoers and run into several stationary objects, all the while beeping the horn and calling to people to get out of the way. She managed to keep her sense of humor through all of it.

As she downsized from her Bucktown house, Millie was generous with her possessions, frequently urging friends to take clothes and other things home with them. Like the house, her room at Ballard Nursing Center was full to overflowing and she continued giving away anything she could.

The first time I visited her at Ballard I noticed that her bedspread matched the one I had at home. She never forgot that. The last time I visited her, a few days before she died, she insisted that I take home some sheets and material that matched our spreads. I'll always remember Millie when I look at the bedspread.

She was generous with more than her belongings. When she died her body was donated to ALS research, in the hope that whatever helped her to survive for so long could be discovered and used to help others. I have to admire her for that.

Right now I can imagine her curled up with a good book and flirting with every man who passes by.

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