James S Heaney, 1926-2013
My father passed away last week. I loved my dad a great deal. As I look back on his life, I think he is one of the luckiest people I’ve known. Not lucky in the sense that he was given everything he wanted, but lucky in the sense that he took the unfinished opportunities that life gives us and made the most of them.
He grew up during the depression, but was insulated from the worst of it because his father had a good job at a food market. He spent one year at the Wharton school before volunteering for the Army Air Corp in 1944. He was part of the contingency force for the invasion of Japan. He gained the rank of Corporal as a crew chief for a Consolidated B-24J Liberator bomber. He was one of the people who was saved an uncertain fate in Japan by the Atomic bomb.
After World War 2, he went back to the Wharton School. He loved rowing, and was part of the University of Pennsylvania rowing team. After graduating, he continued rowing for the Vesper Boat Club. As national champions, Vesper was chosen to represent the US in the 1952 Olympics. He also rowed in the Pan American Games in 1955. He stayed active with Vesper long after his active rowing days were over. He was a stock broker for over 40 years. He loved being a stock broker, and didn’t retire until 2006. He entered the field during the golden age of managed investing, and retired before the industry underwent the fundamental changes of online trading.
Dad coached me in soccer when I was little. He was a demanding, supportive coach. He didn’t want to show favoritism towards me, but I think he truly did think that I was the best goalie on the team without parental bias. He would have told me if he didn’t think that way, but he would still have rotated me in because I was his son. We did pretty well under his leadership. Our club had by far the finest soccer field in the league. We played on a field that was used for grass tennis courts during the summer. It was magnificent to play soccer on such a finely manicured field. It was also the only field in the league were the players were required to replace their divets after the game. Dad also played squash and tennis every week. He stopped playing most sports a few years ago. His knees bothered him and his mobility was reduced. He still enjoyed talking about strategy and the nuances of the games, though.
In recent years, he often said that this was the happiest time of his life. He seemed to get happier as time went on. How many of us can truly say that? I certainly grew happier with our relationship as time went on, and I will be sadder for the loss of it.