A 1982 Nevada High School graduate said it is “the compassion and insight into people” she gained growing up in Nevada which made her who she is today.
A talented artist, Rebecca “Becky” (Heintz) McIntosh, 56, utilized those hometown traits this past year to express her love for humanity during the greatest healthcare crisis of our time. Becky made a “memorial” dreamcatcher, honoring the Iowa lives lost to COVID. It has hung on the wall of the Comfort Health Care Center for Women in Clive, where she works as an appointment scheduler.
“People are moved by the piece, and it has opened up doors for people to talk about their loss… If they have lost a loved one, I let them put a little sticker behind one of the feathers with that person’s name on it,” Becky noted.
The dreamcatcher is made from a discarded patio table rim and has feathers representing each Iowan who has died from COVID. “I keep hoping that I will not have to add any more feathers,” Becky said. Then added, “I will just continue to comfort and pray over families in the meantime.”
Becky and the dreamcatcher were featured in MercyOne’s February newsletter. The Comfort Health Care Center for Women in Clive is a Mercy clinic. Becky has worked in one way or another for Mercy since 2006.
After high school, she earned a degree in graphic design from Iowa State University, and her career started in graphic design for a company in Des Moines. When her four children were young, she left her full-time graphic design job to homeschool. She did freelance work for a T-shirt company while homeschooling.
When she was ready to re-enter the workforce, the graphic design field had gone digital. With such major changes in her chosen field, Becky looked for another career path and found it at Mercy hospital, starting as a patient transporter. She then did medical receptionist work and three years working as a grant-funded therapeutic artist for cancer patients.
She eventually landed her current position at the Comfort Health Center for Women. She has loved making craft gift items for patients and has also made wall art to encourage and promote healing.
“Working with patients has been a joy,” Becky said. “People are very vulnerable when they are on a medical journey, and it has been a pleasure to serve them and get them to talk a little bit about their burdens. I have met so many strong souls that have humbled me and taught me what it really means to be brave and walk with dignity through a dark valley.”
No matter her occupation, Becky has always found a way to contribute artistically. “It has been my pleasure and privilege to work in so many different areas. I love to communicate, especially the message of God’s love and mercy, with any medium. I have designed stained glass windows for two churches in Des Moines, done murals in daycares, in businesses and for Climb Iowa. I have written, illustrated, and printed a book called ‘The Cowgirl Ballerina.’ I work with many talented artists at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, teaching classes, making craft ideas for events, set designs, and just about whatever they need to help spread the Good News.”
Fondest memories of Nevada
Thinking about her youth, Becky said one of her fondest memories is cross country and Coach Parker.
“We nicknamed ourselves ‘The Pranksters’ and lived up to our name. One year, we told Coach we were going to take some road signs to decorate our two-mile, cross-country course. He pretended he didn’t hear us. Later that night, we called him from a restaurant and told him we got arrested for doing that — we really didn’t — and would he come bail us out. He muttered some choice words but said he would come. We shot over to his house real quick, and all jumped out and yelled, ‘Just kidding!’ as he came out of the house to get in the car to come ‘rescue’ his team. ONLY in a small town would a coach do that for his team,” Becky said.
Another outstanding memory is a high school trip with Mr. Slinger and Mr. Tryon to Estes Park. “It truly opened the door for my love of the outdoors and was freedom for my adventurous spirit. I never would have had an opportunity like that otherwise. I remember how well the whole group got along … it was peace in the midst of the chaos of high school drama. We climbed to the top of Mount Audubon, and I just remember it being the most glorious thing I had ever seen.”
The mountains have been calling her ever since. “I would really like to go back and climb that again for my 60th birthday. Hopefully Ann Anderson and Sherri (Heintz) Smith will read this and want to go again as well,” she said.
All Nevada’s teachers influenced her life, Becky noted, but she gives a special thanks to Mr. Foley. “I whined a lot, but he took it all in stride and just made jokes. He pushed us to be a little better than we thought we could be, and he even put up with my crazy socks!”
She has a message for today’s teachers, “If you are a teacher reading this and question why you are doing what you do, remember you have more influence than you will ever know.”
Before COVID, Becky said she came back to Nevada at least once a month to spend time with her mother, Mary Ann, and her stepfather, Bob Gardner. She has other family members still in Nevada and the Nevada area.
“My brother Dan lives in the house we grew up in on Fourth Street, and his boys still live in the Ames/Nevada area. My brother Mark and his wife, April, and their girls are still in the area. My sister, Deb, is nearby in the Maxwell area with her husband, Mike.”
When it comes to her children, Becky is proud. Her oldest is Nicole, who lives in West Des Moines with her husband, Joel, and their three kids. Nicole graduated from ISU in apparel design and minored in journalism. She works for Brownell’s in Winterset. Next is her son, Ben, who graduated from ISU with a graphic design degree and history minor and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ben is an avid rock climber and outdoorsman. Her third child is Bailey, who also graduated from ISU in animal ecology and forestry. She lives in Lakewood, Colo., and also loves hiking, climbing and the outdoors. Her youngest is Kaleb, who lives in Des Moines. He went to DMACC and works for Hicklin’s. “He definitely has the Heintz fix-it guy genes in him.”
When Becky thinks back to the most significant impact on her life, she said losing her father, Sam, at age 11 stands out.
“I don’t think you realize until later how big of an impact that has on your life, but there is always a little piece of you that wonders how things would have been different. I think all of us kids, and my mom, have risen above those ashes, though, and been stronger for it.”
She thinks her loss has taught her to be patient with others who are struggling. She’s demonstrated that patience while taking part in overseas mission trips in Africa or working with patients at the Comfort Health Center for Women in Clive. “Many have been that person for me, and I want to be that for others.”
–Written by Marlys Barker, City of Nevada