A Great Plains Conference elder is mourning the deaths of his son and granddaughter in a Memorial Day weekend head-on crash south of Salina.
The Rev. Phillip Hett, 39, and his 10-year-old daughter Abigail were killed in the May 30 crash, and 13-year-old Jillian Hett is recovering at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.
The Kansas Highway Patrol says the driver of a pickup was headed the wrong way on I-135 south of Salina and struck Hett’s pickup. Christopher Giroux, the driver, was also killed.
Phillip’s father, the Rev. Warren Hett, currently serves the Roxbury United Parish in McPherson County, and lives in Lindsborg, as did his son and granddaughters.
Phil Hett had worked for 3 ½ years as chaplain at Bethany Village nursing home and its Sunflower Terrace assisted living facility in Lindsborg, a mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America.
“Very, very beloved chaplain,” his father said. “People just loved him, and he loved everybody too.”
Warren Hett said his son made it a point to visit with each of the approximately 100 residents at Bethany Village at least twice a week.
In a statement, Bethany Village CEO Kris Erickson said there was tremendous shock and grief over the loss of “Pastor Phil.”
“Phil was an amazing man, a great friend, and a wonderful pastor,” Erickson wrote. “He was the spiritual center of our mission. He was the person we would turn to in our time of loss and grief, and now we face this loss without his presence. He has left us with lessons in faith and love that allow us to hold one another up as we come to terms with this tragedy.”
Phil Hett worked for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services for many years, as well as the Baker University admissions office and Great Plains Camps Lakeside and Horizon.
“People throughout Kansas know him,” his father said.
He entered a Lutheran seminary in Minneapolis and completed his degree in six years of online study, his father said, visiting the campus twice a year.
Phil Hett was a good fit for the job because of “his compassion and caring and love of people of all ages,” his father said.
In a written report to the ELCA Synod, Phil Hett said being an essential worker during the pandemic had strengthened his ministry and his commitment.
“There is no other place I would have wanted to be during this pandemic,” he wrote. “I give thanks for the opportunity that God has placed in my path. I believe with every part of my being that I have received more from the people at Bethany Village than I ever gave in return.”
Abigail Hett “was such a joy,” her grandfather added.
Warren Hett and his wife Marilyn are grieving the loss “minute by minute,” he said.
Thirteen-year-old Jillian Hett is in intensive care “but improving” at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, her grandfather said. Plans for a memorial service will take place following her recovery, he added.
Two memorial funds have been established for the family:
The Jillian and Abigail Hett Fund at Farmers State Bank, 447 N. Harrison St., P.O. Box 511, Lindsborg, KS 67456. Checks should be written to Kim Hett, with Jillian & Abigail Fund in the memo.
The Phil Hett Memorial Fund at The Bank of Tescott, 202 N. Main St., Lindsborg, KS 67456, or delivered in person at any Salina location of the bank.
Contact David Burke, content specialist, at email@example.com.