Former long-time Pettis County Coroner, funeral director at Heckart Funeral Home and beloved face in the community Fred Biggs, who died Sunday in Warrensburg at the age of 80 years, will be buried with police and firefighter honors.
“We thought of Fred as one of our own,” said Sedalia Police Chief John DeGonia. “We think that is the right thing to do out of respect for him and the family. We will do the 21-gun salute and I expect there will be a big police and fire presence there. Everyone he worked with, he tried to help them and he certainly deserves those honors.”
Biggs wore many “hats” during his lifetime, but was elected Pettis County Coroner in 1980 and served until 2004. Sheriff Kevin Bond who also worked with Biggs extensively said Biggs was a genuinely good-hearted person.
“He cared about, not only grieving families, but he cared about his community as well,” Bond said. I saw that not just when he was coroner, but when he left. He was a devoted member of the Optimist Club and was just a cheerful person that always had a smile on his face when he saw you.”
Before and during his tenure as coroner, he worked as a funeral director as Heckart Funeral Home, a company where he was employed for 55 years. President and Funeral Director Sue Heckart grew up with Biggs and was tearful over his loss, describing Biggs as the big brother she never had.
“Fred was very kindhearted,” said Heckart. “He was very conscientious. He had this funeral home at his heart and even after he retired, he would go drink coffee and come back by. I would kid him saying he came in to ‘give us our marching orders.’ He was so loyal. You couldn’t get any more loyal.”
Biggs was born Jan. 23, 1934 He graduated Smith-Cotton High School in 1952. He worked several jobs in the community during his “salad days” including several grocery stores, a monument company and as a welder.
Nine years of his life was devoted to military service as he served in Battery C, 128th Field Artillery Division, of the U.S. Army 35th Infantry Division, first as a radio operator then as a cook. He also participated in the quelling of the Missouri Prison Riot in 1954 at Jefferson City.
He began working with Heckart Funeral Home as an ambulance driver and stayed there until his retirement, except for a brief time from 1967-73 when he was an insurance agent and staff manager for National Life and Accident.
“When he left here for a short period of time, it was when we were going out of the ambulance business,” Heckart said. “I think he thought since we weren’t going to have the ambulance service anymore he would maybe not have a job, although we never indicated that to him,” Heckart said.
His time in the insurance industry was short lived. As evidenced by his magnitude for kindness and honesty, Biggs’ real place was helping those in mourning during their darkest hours.
“He had everybody’s welfare at heart. Even before his own. Everybody loved Fred and he was good with names. He was well respected in the community. He was a good man. I really can’t say enough about him,” Heckart said.
Biggs retired from Heckart Funeral Home in 1999, but continued to “help out” until last year.
“It’s kind of the end of an era here at the funeral home. It’s another link to my parents that’s gone now. It’s kind of tough for me,” Heckart said.
In addition to his time in public service, Biggs was a member of numerous clubs and civic organizations. He loved duck hunting, photography, gardening, and traveling to the western states. His wife, Ada Louise Durrill, survives him as do a brother, a sister and several nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Tuesday and funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Heckert Funeral Home. Burial will be in Crown Hill Cemetery with honors by the Sedalia Police Honor Guard.