Josephine Kleiner Heiman

October 27, 1923 ~ March 31, 2023 (age 99) 99 Years Old

Josephine Heiman Obituary

We are sad to report the passing of Josephine Kleiner Heiman on Friday night, March 31st. She was 99 years old and a lifetime resident of Tacoma. She will be remembered vividly as a friend and surrogate mom to all the kids in her Tacoma North End neighborhood.

Through her many years, she was known variously as Jo, Auntie Jo, JoJo, or Grammy Jo. Her home could be counted on as a loving, welcoming, and supportive refuge, accompanied by popsicles, popcorn, and a watchful dog, cat, or turtle. Whether as a surrogate or actual mom, her energy was unwavering, and her creativity knew few bounds. 

Throughout her lifetime, she won multiple awards and honors for her work and service to her Tacoma Jewish Community and the people of Tacoma. She was a masterful, funny, and mischievous charity fund-raiser, pushing through big audacious ideas that broke the mold for community activism. She was a lifelong volunteer and champion for the underdog, surrounding herself with colorful, offbeat characters of all ages, drawn to her kind, non-judgemental acceptance of whatever their lifestyle or quirks. She championed the Tacoma (Council of Jewish Women) Thrift Center and made it a welcoming place for the inhabitants of Tacoma’s K-Street neighborhood.

Jo exemplified the importance of taking a stand against injustice. With her husband and biggest supporter, Ken Heiman, she marched for civil rights, fair housing, Planned Parenthood, and against the Vietnam War. 

She was a co-creator of the Pierce County Community Mental Health Crisis Support Line -- an early model for suicide intervention. Her home and dining room table was a nerve center for local causes and activism. She was a local organizer and promoter of Tacoma’s United Nations Day, Trick Or Treating for UNICEF, Restoring the Pantages Theater, and Union Station. She was a lifelong Stadium Booster (Class of ‘41) and gleefully fought heated local political battles against a dysfunctional school board or the (successful) recalls in a wayward City Council, and the eventual license suspension of a bigoted and anti semitic Puyallup radio station, she was at the forefront of the fight with passion, humor, and a righteous message.

True to form, she postponed her passing until she had word of Trump’s arraignment.

Jo was preceded in passing by her parents, Morris and Pauline Kleiner; her husband, Kenneth Heiman; her daughter-in-law, Michaela Hamilton-Heiman; her sister-in-law, Barbara Kleiner; and was followed one day later by her beloved brother, Herman Kleiner. 

Her memory will be cherished by her sister, Malca Chall, her three sons, Larry Hamilton-Heiman, Jeff Heiman, and Ron Heiman (Wendy); her grandchildren - Josie Dichter (Paul) and Sylvie Heiman, Isaac, and Annabelle Heiman; and great-grandson, Raffi Kenneth Dichter.

Josephine’s granddaughter, Sylvie, contributed a beautiful social media post that encapsulates our feelings at this time. She wrote:

My beautiful, funny, courageous grandma. I wish she could have stayed forever.  Today, at her funeral, I was daydreaming about how fun it would have been to have known her through the earlier parts of her life - and I realized that I have my sister, my nephew, my cousins, my dad, and my uncles who all carry different parts of her. Her humor, her sarcasm, her love of snacks and sweets, her kindness, her intensity, how quick she was to call out injustice, and general stupidity. My grandma was a force, and she gifted a bit of her spirit to each of us.

This week, sitting by her bed and holding her hand, we laughed so much more than we cried. I love that she heard us laughing while she transitioned.

One of the sweetest things a family friend said today: “She was a mother to so many of us. I can’t remember ever not knowing her.” I love you, Jojo.

Those who knew her will never forget her, and we welcome your stories in this archive and invite you to join her family when we host a Celebration of Life for Jo on Sunday, May 7th at 2 PM at Temple Beth El in Tacoma @ 5975 S. 12th Street.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Josephine Kleiner Heiman, please visit our floral store.

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Celebration of Life
May 7, 2023

2:00 PM
Temple Beth El
5975 S. 12th St.
Tacoma, WA 98465


American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
424 E. 92nd St, New York NY 10128-6804


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