Jeff and Bev Heller stand outside St. Wenceslaus Parish in Scappoose, a community that supported them when their son died in 2005. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Jeff and Bev Heller stand outside St. Wenceslaus Parish in Scappoose, a community that supported them when their son died in 2005. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)

SCAPPOOSE — Jeff and Bev Heller are active members of St. Wenceslaus Parish here. They have contributed immense amounts of support and have overcome great challenges.

Bev was born in Woodburn and lived there through high school. Jeff was born in Scappoose and moved to St. Helens, where he lived through high school. They met at the University of Portland in 1978, with Bev earning a nursing degree and Jeff a degree in secondary education. Jeff attended U.P. on a basketball scholarship, playing all four years.

The couple dated for several years and were married in 1983. 

Jeff was not raised Catholic. He discovered the Catholic faith through Bev and learned it from the no-nonsense Msgr. Frank Campbell.

Jeff calls his entry into the church “the best decision I ever made.”

They attended The Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland, where Msgr. Campbell was pastor, but then decided to look at parishes closer to home. They found St. Wenceslaus and decided quickly that it was the right fit for them.

“What drew me in was all the socials, like the turkey dinner,” Bev said.

Jeff explained that he liked the youth involvement in the parish. The Heller children all took part, some as altar servers and all in religious education. 

Jeff and Bev are deeply involved to this day. Bev is a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion. She served on the parish finance council for 20 years. Jeff is an usher and greeter.

For the St. Wenceslaus annual turkey dinner they’ve had a challenging and important job — making gravy. No one else wanted the strenuous task.

One of the Hellers’ greatest contributions to St. Wenceslaus was working on construction of the parish hall. A logger and woodworker, Jeff provided the hall with its wood flooring. Bev helped select the paint and was a major helper in purchasing  tables and chairs.  

The Heller’s oldest son, David, was an starting basketball point guard and 4.0 student at Central Catholic High School. In 2005, at age 17, he died in his sleep of an enlarged heart.

It was a hard time for the Heller family and also for the parish. Parishioners were exceptionally close to David, who knew theology better than most adults.

Both Jeff and Bev said their faith is stronger because of the tragedy. They also said that the St. Wenceslaus community was especially supportive and got them through the difficult time. Jeff noted that for several months after David’s death, parishioners gave the family hot meals free of charge. 

After their son’s death, Jeff and Bev created the David Heller Foundation. The organization is dedicated to helping pay for heart screenings for teenagers, especially student athletes. The Hellers also work to obtain defibrillators for local high schools. Over the years, the couple have donated numerous defibrillators and have provided key assistance to heart screening organizations. They also offer a scholarship in David’s honor to students at St. Wenceslaus Parish.

The Hellers host an annual dinner and auction, with proceeds supporting the foundation.

It’s rare to find people as dedicated and faithful as the Hellers.  Their faith has stood even amid hardships and has inspired them to help many other people. They continue to shine as vibrant examples of the love of Christ, and their generosity to everyone who needs their help shines brightest.

Louie is a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish and a student at Valley Catholic School in Beaverton.