For Sue Heckart, the Sedalia community center has been a nearly 20-year passion project. 

Heckart, former owner of Heckart Funeral Home and founder of the Heckart Family Foundation, has been a vocal supporter of constructing a community center for years. In February she announced she was making a multimillion-dollar donation to the Heritage Foundation that is earmarked for a community center. 

Sedalia voters will be asked during the Aug. 6 special election to consider a one-eighth cent sales tax increase, which would be one cent for every $8 spent in the city of Sedalia. If approved, the money from the tax will be used to pay the principal on the proposed center. Voters will also decide whether to remove the June 30, 2026, sunset provision on existing capital improvement sales taxes. The removal of the sunset provision will not add an additional tax, according to Heckart, but will just remove the expiration date a tax everyone is already paying.

If the community supports both ballot issues, Heckart has agreed to pay the interest on the bonds, not to exceed $20 million. Heckart said the donation is to honor the memory of her parents, Del and Stella. The project must be completed no later than March 18, 2021, the 20th anniversary of her mother’s passing.

Heckart wants to name the center after her parents because it was something they had always wanted for the community. 

“It’s not about Sue Heckart and it’s not about putting the Heckart name on another building. I would hate for somebody not to vote for it because of that…” Heckart said. “That’s the main thing with me is that I hope people know that I’m doing it in memory of and to honor my parents. It’s something that they wanted to see happen for Sedalia. Then the other thing is I wanted a facility that everybody could enjoy and be a part of.”

Heckart started working on the project and doing research in 2001. They were unable to find a suitable place to put a center at that time. 

“I tried to pull just about every string I could pull and it just kind of died because of a lack of a suitable place that we thought we could build it with enough land,” she said.

Heckart worked on various plans for the community center in the following years but they never came to fruition until this year.  

Heckart said the plan the Parks and Recreation Department has for the community center is the best plan she has seen. 

“I have to be sold on something, and I have to give from my heart, otherwise I can’t do it. I feel it with all my heart that this the right thing…I just believe that that’s the right place for it. I think there was a reason why it’s been this long. Finally, we’ve got the best solution,” Heckart said. 

“We established this to try to make a difference and to try to make Sedalia better because we came 71 years ago, total strangers to the town, didn't know a soul. My parents had never even been to the town…Sedalia has been good to my parents and I.”

Sedalia Parks and Recreation Director Amy Epple said she is thankful for Heckart’s help, saying the city would not be able to build the center without her.

“We’ve ran numbers and there’s just no way that we’d be able to do this without her contribution and we appreciate that. The (parks) board did all vote 100% for the facility to be named after her family for what she has given,” Epple said.

“With this and the two ballot issues, everything has kind of alined. This is our one chance and opportunity for us to be able to do this and the city could not do this without her support...The Parks Department just does not have the funds to be able to do it all and do it all at one time, the pool and everything.”

Heckart said it is because of the community’s support of her family and their business that allows her to make donations like this. She believes the community should be thanking themselves. 

“When people thank me I tell them, ‘Well those of you that have supported my parents and I and our family business the last 70 and a half years, you've made the gifts possible. You really should get all the praise and the glory, not me,’” she said. “I feel that way about it because that’s the truth…If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn't have it to give.”

City Reporter

Emily Walton is the city reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering local government and various city departments.

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