OXFORD — Theodore “Ted” Heidrich, 79, died early Thursday at Maine Medical Center in Portland, according to his grandson, David Heidrich.

Ted Heidrich, a longtime Republican, succumbed to an illness that he had battled briefly and sustained an infection his body couldn’t fight off, David Heidrich said.

He said the family was grieving and still in shock.

“My uncle told me last night on the way home from the hospital that, ‘Your grandfather loved you and was very proud of you,'” David Heidrich said. “I said, ‘I loved him and was very proud of him too.'”

The younger Heidrich works for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in her Washington office.

“As a Korean War veteran who served in the Marine Corps, he was a tireless advocate for our veterans and remained active in several state and national veterans’ service organizations,” Collins said in a statement. “As a dedicated state representative in the Maine Legislature, he embodied the true spirit of public service, and his contributions will be remembered for years to come.”

Ted Heidrich was born in the Bronx borough of New York City on Dec. 18, 1930. The eldest of six children, he grew up in Brooklyn and Cedarhurst, N.Y., and graduated from Lawrence High School in 1948. Three years later, he was drafted into the Marine Corps and served in the Korean War with a tank retriever crew in Dog Company of the First Marine Division. He was wounded by shrapnel during the conflict.

“He said there were so many others who were hurt so much worse than him that he never put in for anything,” said Eleanor Heidrich, Ted’s wife of 57 years.

Heidrich was discharged as a corporal, and received the Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal and Good Conduct Medal. He attended the Institute of Dry Cleaning in Silver Springs, Md., and began working at Arthur Copeland Inc. in Cedarhurst. One of the most notable achievements Heidrich took part in while working at the company was the cleaning of the oldest Torah cover in the Western Hemisphere.

“He started when he was in eighth grade, sweeping the floors,” said Norma Crowell, Heidrich’s daughter. “And eventually, he owned the place.”

Heidrich retired at age 55, but returned to the company twice to help with the business before selling it to two employees. He and Eleanor bought a camp on Hogan Pond in Oxford in 1978 and later moved to a house on Route 26. Heidrich maintained a garden and woodlot at the residence, and the couple opened a Christmas tree shop at their home in 1992.

David Heidrich said his grandfather was well-known for fundraising and organizing a summer concert series at the bandstand outside the VFW hall in Oxford. The last concert of the summer season is set for Tuesday, David Heidrich said.

In December 2001, Ted Heidrich donated a Christmas tree that was placed at ground zero in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Heidrich’s nephew, John Heidrich, was a New York City police detective at the time. Eleanor said he came to Maine to visit the family and saw a Christmas tree in the woodlot that was not for sale due to its beauty. John was able to convince Ted to part with it, and the city accepted it.

“We want it more as a memorial tree, not a festive tree, just to respect those that were there,” Ted Heidrich told the Sun Journal at the time. “We want it to be a bit defiant, to tell (the) world we’re here and we’re staying here.”

Heidrich served in the Maine House from 1999 to 2004. He represented Oxford, Mechanic Falls, Otisfield and part of Hebron, according to a release issued by Gov. John Baldacci on Thursday.

“Ted was a thoughtful man and principled legislator,” Baldacci said in a statement. “He will be missed.”

Heidrich’s family said he contributed to many local organizations, including Community Concepts, the American Legion, the Masons and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He began the western Maine contingent of the Marine Corps League and would visit schools with other veterans to speak about patriotism. His son, Fred Heidrich, remembered him as a generous man.

“He never asked for anything in return,” Fred said.

Baldacci said he would order flags flown at half-staff in Oxford, Mechanic Falls, Otisfield and Hebron on the day of Heidrich’s funeral.

David Heidrich said the family was still planning and that details about Heidrich’s memorial service or funeral would be released soon.

“He was a wonderful man, who will be missed, and we are going to be remembering him and celebrating his life in the days ahead,” David Heidrich said.

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