Cover photo for Nickolas Heerema's Obituary
1922 Nickolas 2018

Nickolas Heerema

October 5, 1922 — November 4, 2018

Nickolas Heerema, Ph.D. died peacefully at his wife Joetta’s side on November 4, 2018. He was born the last of four children to Dutch immigrants Albert and Gerbina Heerema, in Hospers, Iowa on October 5, 1922. His childhood was spent in Grundy Center, Iowa where his father was a baker, and the family was active in the Christian Reformed Church. In 1934 they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Nick graduated from high school at Ottawa Hills in 1940, and attended Calvin College for his freshman and sophomore years.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Nick enlisted in the US Army but the Army instructed him to return to his studies. He transferred to the University of Michigan, where he majored in chemical engineering. After graduation, he went through basic training and achieved the rank of staff sergeant. Three days before his unit was deployed to France, he received sealed orders to report to Columbus, Ohio as a technician. From there, he was sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to work on the Manhattan Project. While there, he met the love of his life Joetta Jones.  After the war ended, he earned his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Tennessee.

Nick and Joetta were married on January 1st, 1948. Their first child, Mark Stephen, was born in 1949, and Nick received his Ph.D. in 1951. They then moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where he joined the faculty of the Department of Mathematics at Florida State University.  Nick and Joetta had four more children --  Jane Ellen, David John, Thomas Scott and Amy Elizabeth.

During his tenure at FSU, Nick published his research in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society including “Inertial Automorphisms of a Class of Wildly Ramified v-Rings” in 1968, “A Galois Theory for Inseparable Field Extensions” in 1971 and “Galois Theory for Fields K/k Finitely Generated” with his graduate student James Deveney in 1974. Nick greatly enjoyed his work with both graduate and undergraduate students.

After he retired, Nick combined his love of travelling and teaching by teaching Mathematics on board aircraft carriers for the US Navy, sailing the Mediterranean for multiple summers in the 1980’s.  He also taught for the University of Maryland at various U.S. military posts in Germany during this period, and was able to spend extended periods with his daughter Jane, her husband and his German granddaughters in Darmstadt.  He loved cycling through the German countryside, pushing his granddaughters in their strollers through the Herrengarten in Darmstadt, and the Rhine wines.

Nickolas was a loving father and grandfather. He loved to play tennis.  He loved to read, especially history, and was an avid gardener who continuously cared for his own yard. In his later years he enjoyed watching his grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up in Tallahassee. He was always eager to go for a drive in the countryside of North Florida and South Georgia, and loved chocolate to his last days.

He was a founding member of Faith Presbyterian Church, where he was ordained and installed a Ruling Elder in the congregation in 1980. He enjoyed serving the church and singing in the choir as long as he was able. Nick was preceded in death by his siblings Edward and Jack Heerema and by his son, Thomas Heerema.  He is survived by his devoted wife, Joetta, his sister Elizabeth, his children Mark and wife Kathy, Jane and husband Walter, David, daughter-in-law Jeanette Boyer, and Amy and husband Jesse, 12 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

The family prefers that those who wish may make contributions in his name to Hurricane Michael Relief at or A Memorial Service will be held at Faith Presbyterian Church, 2200 N. Meridian Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32303 on Tuesday, November 20th at 2pm.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

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