Thursday, November 16, 2006

Death of a Shipmate

I heard today that Norm Heller, a long-time Coast Guard Auxiliarist and the consummate SAR Dog, had a heart attack yesterday after a game of tennis with a friend.

Norm worked with the SAR controllers at Sector Hampton Hampton Roads; he'd been volunteering at the Sector since its inception; he was a member of the last crew at Group Hampton Roads, having served for years. He stood the SAR Command Duty Officer and SAR Controller watches, and was one of the key currency maintenance trainers. He kept everyone sharp and honed. Norm also taught at the National SAR School in Yorktown... all this as a volunteer.

The pictures with this post were lifted from Norm's website. I knew he had a large family; I didn't know how large. Norm was certainly blessed, and we were blessed to know him, serve with him, and learn from him.

Services for Norm are this weekend; I don't have the details at the moment.

He will be missed. I pray he have fair winds and following seas in this final journey of his.
Update, posted Friday, 17 November 2006, at 0850: The Virginian Pilot's servers were down last night; this morning, I was able to find Norm's obituary posted in the Pilot. I post it here, in its entirety:
Norman G. Heller, 74, died suddenly Nov. 15, 2006, while enjoying a life well lived.

Norm was a well-known and widely respected resident of the Northern Neck. He was a retired railroad executive who served in the United States Coast Guard during the 1950s. He was, in addition, a very active and dedicated volunteer to the U.S. Coast Guard, pillar of the community, and a devoted and generous husband, father, grandfather and friend.

Born in Bay Shore, N.Y., son of Meyer and Dorothy Heller, Norm grew up in both New York and Florida. While enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in New London, Conn., he met Betsy Elfenbein whom he married in June of 1956. They soon moved to Atlanta, Ga., where Norm graduated with distinction from the Georgia Institute of Technology with degrees in electrical engineering. Following various career paths, he joined The Southern Railway Corporation, now Norfolk Southern Corporation, and retired after 30 years of service where he held an executive position in marketing.

Betsy and Norm retired to White Stone, Va., in 1994, where they enjoyed all aspects of the Northern Neck, most especially cruising the Chesapeake Bay. Norm was an avid sailor and boatman and loved both hosting friends on his boat and especially teaching his children and grandchildren about all things nautical. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Northern Neck and became an active volunteer in many U.S. Coast Guard activities including becoming a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue School staff in Yorktown, Va.

Norm touched the lives of most of the search and rescue controllers in the field. An expert in mathematical search theory, he developed most of the training materials used today for its study. He was well-known for his teaching of search containment theory and used his humor and creativity to develop classes unlike any other. He voluntarily taught courses at various U.S. Coast Guard stations and seminar events around the country. He was perhaps the most active volunteer to the U.S. Coast Guard in the country, and his talent and teaching skills are legendary at the Hampton Roads Center.

His time and energies were generously spread throughout the community in other ways as well. Over the 12 years since he moved to the Northern Neck, he served with enthusiasm on many boards and committees, including but not limited to the Foundation Board at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury, the Board at the Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club, the Board of the Norfolk Chapter of the American Heart Association, and he was active with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 33, serving as commander for two years.

The yacht Serendipity with Norm at the helm will long be remembered for their enthusiastic presence in the Irvington Lighted Boat Parade each year.

His dedication to his family knew no limits. He would do anything for them and did. He lived well, and inspired others to do the same. He will be sorely missed.

He is survived by his wife, Betsy; his children, Jeffrey and Joyce Heller of Norfolk, Randall Heller and Frances McManus of South Strafford, Vt., and Kathy and Jim Pomer of Grantham, N.H.; his grandchildren, Scott, Nicholas, Jack, Kevin and Ellen; his sister, Charlotte Kornahrens of New York; and his brother, Edward Heller of the United Kingdom.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Currie Funeral Home, 116 E. Church St., Kilmarnock, Va., (804) 435-1077. A reception will follow at the Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club also in Kilmarnock.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in Norm’s name to the American Heart Association.

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