With Walter Cronkite’s passing, I was reminded of how – somewhat quietly – the passing of Jack Heeger, another writer in my world, had just happened.
Jack’s final words to us all:
Tonight when you open that bottle of wine, make a toast to life, good health and love of family. Those are the things that are important. Enjoy the wine to the fullest, and forget the numbers.
Honestly, old writers never die, they just get a new editor, and his words made their way to print, even after his passing.
Meanwhile, we’re all left to miss those familiar words. I’m already missing those phone conversations when we’d get excited about something very special… conversations that we had many, many times.
The most memorable story about Jack for me was when I had Sergeant First Class Honey Aireborn (aka Honey Airborne) coming to California to ONLY taste Petite Sirah. She pretty much held to her word, until Trentadue’s mischievous winemaker Miro Tcholakov slipper her a barrel sample of Zinfandel. I had planned a 10 day extravaganza for her, with the generosity from Petite Sirah producers that had never been seen like this before for one single person/soldier. I can’t imagine a 10-day, all expenses paid trip like this ever again, either. It was just too special to ever replicate again.
All Honey had to do was get herself here, and the members of PS I Love You did the rest, wining, dining, spa, hot air balloon ride, lodging in the best of places… It was amazing, and Jack saw the grandeur… He even joined in. He became the storyteller for her Napa visit, joining us at Judd’s Hill Winery for lunch and his note taking.
One of his life’s greatest professional joys came when Honey Airborne returned to new York City, managed a float in the Veteran’s Day Parade, and invited Jack to participate on that float… In Jack’s own words in a final article before he passed away, holding it for printing until after his death… “It’s been a great ride; thanks for the memories:”
Another story that led to a terrific experience was one involving an Army Reserve First Sergeant who goes by the name of Honey Airborne and whose favorite wine is petite sirah. I interviewed her after she returned from her third tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and visited petite sirah producers in California. A few months later, she e-mailed that she was in charge of her vets’ organization’s float in the New York Veterans Day Parade and invited all vets who participated in her California adventure to join her on the float. My wife and I took her up on it, flew to New York, had breakfast at Mayor Bloomberg’s mansion, then sat on the float and waved to the crowd as we went up Fifth Avenue. What a fantastic opportunity!
When Jack Returned, I was sent this image of Jack, Honey (Center), and Heddy (right) all enjoying time together in that electrifying city. He was obviously having the time of his life… They all were.
I wrote about Jack once before: All Hail to Veterans.
It was great fun putting that whole “story to be written” together. I invited many writers to participate. No-one was as excited as Jack to cover it, though. Perhaps it was because Jack was a Veteran, so he just couldn’t resist the lure. That allure then turned into his being recognized as an American soldier who had served his country before he passed away, honored for his military contributions in marvelous New York City on Veterans Day.
I’m now certain that it was his destiny above all the other writers that I had queried, but couldn’t manage to find the time. It wasn’t their time. It was Jack’s, and I’m so missing this wonderful gentleman and scholar.
RIP: Jack Heeger ~ Oct. 18, 1930 to July 3, 2009
This image of Jack and Leo Trentadue in New York City was taken by their host, Sergeant First Class Honey Airborne. They’re standing in front of the Trump Tower to their left – our right – and the float they both rode on, right up 5th Avenue. Clearly, this was a high moment for them both as veterans.