Von der Heydt was born in Miles City, Montana. He attended Albion College, where he received a B.A. degree in 1942, and the Northwestern University School of Law, where he got a J.D. degree in 1951. He served as a deputy U.S. marshal in Nome, Alaska from 1945-1948. He also was U.S. Commissioner, United States District Court for the District of Alaska, 1951 and a U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, 1951-1953. Later, he went into private practice in Nome, from 1953 to 1959. He served as a Member of the Territorial Alaska House of Representatives during the 1957-1959 term and was the Presiding judge of the Superior Court, State of Alaska, from 1959 to 1966.
Von der Heydt was nominated by Lyndon B. Johnson on September 9, 1966, to a seat vacated by Walter Hartman Hodge. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 20, 1966, and received his commission on November 3, 1966. He served as chief judge, from 1973 to 1984 and assumed senior status on July 15, 1984. He served in that capacity until his death, at the age of 94.