A life of helping

Published 11:33 am Friday, February 8, 2013

Dr. Inman Hesla, right, talks with his wife Lois during his senior year at Augustana College.

Austin doctor, Jack-of-all trades, dies

Some call it a miracle when a baby enters the world. In that case, credit the late Dr. Inman Adolph Hesla with facilitating about 3,000 miracles.

Inman, an accomplished doctor and longtime Austin resident, died Wednesday at the age of 90. During his career, he served as a doctor at the Austin Medical Center for 34 years and delivered 2,996 newborns. He had a reputation for taking the time to listen to his patients.

“Dad was a real people person,” said Inman’s son, Todd Hesla. “He really had a lot of concern for people in general.”

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Inman was born June 2, 1922 to Inman Albert and Agnes B. (Brendsel) Hesla in Wakonda, S.D. He grew up during the Great Depression on a nearby farm in Clay County, and later graduated from Augustana Academy, a Lutheran high school in Canton, S.D. Even from a young age, he was known to have a great sense of humor, said Inman’s daughter Beth. Sometimes, it would fuel a practical joke or two.

“One party, he took some pieces of soap and dipped them in chocolate,” she said, adding he did it just to surprise the guests.

Another time, he and a friend took apart a small tractor, brought the pieces onto the roof of a barn and reassembled it there, just for the spectacle.

Inman Hesla

He spent two years at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. He spent 3 1⁄2 years in the service and was stationed on a boat that supplied troops during the Battle of Iwo Jima. After his discharge, he returned to Augustana and completed his biology degree in 1947.

Throughout high school and college, Inman sang the part of baritone in many choir groups, and often performed solos. It was on a choir trip that he met Lois B. Larson, whom he later married. The couple had four children.

Inman’s study of medicine led him to the University of South Dakota and later to Southwestern Medical School at the University of Texas. He graduated with his doctor of medicine degree in 1951, and moved with Lois to Austin the following year.

“He was a wonderful man and a wonderful husband,” Lois said.

In the spring of 1970, Inman went back to war, this time as a volunteer doctor. The two-month program found him working away from the front lines, helping civilians in Quang Tri. Afterward he returned to life as a doctor in Austin, where he worked until he retired in 1986.

In his free time, Inman was an active member of St. Olaf Lutheran Church, where he and Lois sang in the choir. He also enjoyed gardening and camping and was an avid woodworker. He and Lois also liked to birdwatch near Turtle Creek, and kept sets of binoculars in the kitchen so they could watch birds from their backyard. Inman always made time for his family, Todd said, and the Heslas took numerous summer vacations together.

He was as creative and resourceful as they come, and his numerous hobbies showed it, Todd said. He made clocks and carved countless furniture and display pieces out of wood. He loved to read, especially once he retired. Inman was always finding new things to build and ways to make things work better. To summarize, he was a “backyard genius,” Todd said.

Inman had a comforting personality, and could engage anyone in conversation, Todd said. He was happy to lend advice when his children had troubles.

“He was a very kind and caring man,” he said. “We had the feeling he was always there for us.”

It was his way, and he extended that kindness to all those around him. He even stopped fishing at one point in his life because he “felt sorry for the fish,” Beth said.

“We look at him as a larger-than-life figure,” she said.

A visitation period for Inman will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Worlein Funeral Home in Austin, with funeral services following at 11 a.m. Monday. His family prefers memorials be directed to the St. Olaf Church Endowment Fund or Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Dr. Inman Hesla, left, stands with his choral group from Augustana College.


Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the visitation for Dr. Hesla would be held at St. Olaf. In fact, it will be held at Worlein Funeral Home in Austin. The Herald regrets this error.