It took a while for his adopted state to get the news, but Ilmar “Slim” Heinaru, 94, an officer in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs from 1969 to 1988 who organized conferences and seminars, died this past Nov. 28 at an assisted-living center in Hardy, Va. The cause was a gastrointestinal infection, said a daughter, Linda Strup.
Heinaru was THE top ethnic activist/spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party for most of the 1960s. He was born in Tallinn, Estonia, in 1925 and lived there until 1944 when the Soviet army invaded his homeland. For the next five years, Ilmar lived in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and attended Baltic University, until immigrating to the United States in 1949. He married Eva (Evi) Eerme in 1950 and moved to Detroit.
Heinaru became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and was the Chairman of the Baltic Nations Committee of Detroit. He worked a variety of jobs, attended night school, and completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at the University of Michigan. He was appointed by Michigan Republican Party Chairman Elly Peterson to be Director of the Nationalities Division of the Republican State Central Committee of Michigan after volunteering for George Romney’s gubernatorial campaign as a coordinator of ethnic groups. He was appointed Special Assistant to Governor George Romney in 1964 and Special Assistant to U.S. Senator Robert Griffin in 1968.
He also worked as the National Director of the Nationalities Division for the Nixon-Agnew presidential campaign in 1968. After Nixon’s victory, Heinaru and his family moved to McLean, VA, in 1970, and he began a career with the Department of State. He worked in the Office of Public Affairs until his retirement in 1988. He and Eva then moved to Front Royal, VA, where he enjoyed gardening, entertaining, and watching his grandchildren grow.
Heinaru was predeceased by his wife of 67 years and his son, Peter. He is survived by his daughter, Linda, her husband, Tom, two grandsons and their wives, and six great-grandchildren. Ilmar aka “Slim” will be remembered as a man of great kindness and integrity, an ultimate gentleman.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Estonian-American Fund (eafund.org) at P.O. Box 7369, Silver Spring MD 20907-7369.