ST. PAUL (June 4, 2014) — Marlin Heise of the Hmong Archives was presented with a 2014 West 7th Community Service Award on June 3, 2014. The presentation came at a dinner for honorees at Mancini’s Char House in Saint Paul.
Heise, the co-founder of the Hmong National Archives, was honored along with Maureen Davidson, director of Senior Services at West 7th Community Center.
“Congratulations Marlin Heise, for all of the wonderful things you have done for our diverse communities,” was the statement from the event.
It was May 1981 when Chia Thao, a Hmong high school student started working with Marlin at the Minnesota Historical Society that his life changed considerably. Soon he met dozens of lively Hmong students with homework, helped settle two Hmong families nearby, and lived a month with Chia’s uncle in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand.
Many Thailand trips followed. He founded Hmong Archives in 1999, collecting 165,000 items from 950 donors and 4300 visitors worldwide, clocking 26,000 volunteer hours.
Heise was instrumental in establishing an archive of the first-generation Hmong American items, and the organization has moved several times to expand space to protect its collection. From newspapers, to event flyers to relics from homeland, Heise had an eye for history at a time when others didn’t see the value of items produced during the early years of the Hmong in Minnesota.
Travels to Laos led to supporting talented, but disadvantaged, Hmong university students; now with five successful graduates and five almost there. Since 2006 Cambodia and two families with Khmer students have been added.
For Heise, life continues to be an exciting learning experience in many diverse worlds accessible from that small brick house, in the heart of the West 7th community.
According to the presentation, Heise was born in 1941 and raised on a Western Minnesota farm. He enlisted in the United States Army and service in Stuttgart.
After studies in Germanic and library studies at the University of Minnesota, Heise was cataloging books at the Minnesota Historical Society for the next 25 years.
Heise has resided in a small brick home on the corner of Michigan and Ann for the past 40 years. He burns waste wood on his 1928 gas range, and reuses and recycles everything possible.
Heise conserves resources by traveling on foot, bike or bus to shop for goods at St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and nearby shops.
A humble neighbor and dedicated volunteer, each year Heise could be counted on to do repairs, clean and paint for Metro Paint-A-Thon. He spent a year or two of writing Community Reporter articles.
Czech language studies at Colborne steered Marlin to several enjoyable years with Sokol Minnesota at the CSPS Hall, beginning with its successful nomination for the National Register, volleyball, and the memorable Czech Chamber Music Festival, which he co-founded with Paul and Jill Maybery.