Longtime volunteer bakes sweet picnic cakes

Louise Heil

Record Staff Writer

Louise Heil — or Momma Lou, as she is known to most of her family and friends — has been a vital component of the parish picnic at St. Bartholomew Church since 1973.

This year is no exception.

For nearly 40 years the 89-year old, who friends will note is still as quick as a whip, has made her famous cakes from scratch for the cake booth at the annual picnic at the church on Buechel Bank Road.

“I’m not in charge of the booth this year,” Heil was quick to say in a recent interview.

While that’s technically true, Heil still co-chairs the cake booth with her daughter, Marilyn Heil-Weber.

Making cakes isn’t all Heil does for the St. Bartholomew community; through the years, Heil has worn many hats at the parish.

In 1941, when Heil was 19, she converted to Catholicism and joined the newly established St. Bartholomew Church with her siblings. Heil and her husband, Frank, were the first couple to be married in the new church.

From the beginning Heil and her family were very involved in the parish.

“My mother put a broom in one of my hands and mop in the other, and I haven’t taken them out yet,” Heil said with a twinkle in her eye.

She joined the altar society in 1943, a committee on which she still serves. She’s been a member of the parish council, the parent teacher association, a eucharistic minister, a gift bearer and a choir member.

She has led the parish’s senior citizens group since 1989 and also heads up the bereavement luncheon committee.

And if that’s not enough, she has yet another parish passion — bingo. For 27 years, she has volunteered on Sunday and Monday nights.

“That’s something I won’t miss. It’s very rare if I have to skip bingo,” she said.

Fortunately for Heil she has been blessed with fairly good health and exceeding amounts of energy. In 1991, Heil found out she had cancer in her elbow.  She had to endure three extensive surgeries and was told if the cancer returned, the doctors would have to amputate her arm.

“I prayed and prayed and lit candles,” she said. “I made a promise to God. If he could help me save my arm I would con-tinue working and volunteering at the church. That’s when I made a commitment to bingo. I can’t break my promise to God.”

The cancer never came back and Heil has been true to her word.

For this year’s picnic (which will be held June 15 and 16), Heil plans to make “only about 8 to 10 cakes.”

Some likely contenders will be a carrot cake, German chocolate cake, coconut cake, pineapple upside down cake and her
famous fresh apple cake with caramel icing.

“I have slowed down,” said Heil, bright as a freshly dyed Easter egg in her pale pink pantsuit.

Perhaps that’s accurate, if slowing down means mowing your own grass, running up and down steps and spending hours in the kitchen whipping up homemade chicken and dumplings and pickling beets.

“It’s what keeps me young,” she said with a laugh.

Heil has worked every picnic at St. Bartholomew since the mid-1940s. For years, her husband, who is now deceased, hosted a hayride for the children. All seven of their children have also been involved in the picnic at some time or other.

“I’ve dearly enjoyed working with all the ladies (at the picnic). We’ve never had a harsh word against one another. I enjoy it and it gets me out of the house,” she said.

When she’s not volunteering at the church, Heil spends a great deal of time with her large family.

“We host Derby parties, large Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve. We celebrate all the holidays with family,” her daughter Marilyn said.

Heil still babysits her one-year old and three-year old great grandchildren occasionally.

“They call me the ‘social butterfly,’ ” she said, chuckling to herself.

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