In Memory of Harry Lightner Heckel, Jr.

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen with Harry Heckel, Jr.
Idle Queen’s builder, Harry Heckel, Jr. (left), and I, on the docks in downtown Portsmouth, VA, in August of 2013


Below is a copy of Harry’s obituary.  He was an inspiration to many; including me.  May he rest in peace.

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea…Harry L. Heckel, Jr., died peacefully at home after a short illness February 7, ten days before his 98th birthday. He is preceded in death by his parents, Florence Matilda Williams and Harry Lightner Heckel. Harry was born February 17, 1916, in Los Angeles, CA. After earning a Ph.D. in chemistry from UC Berkeley, Harry began his 30-year career with Allied Chemical (now Honeywell) in Syracuse, NY in 1941 as a research chemist. He became director of Allied Chemical’s Nitrogen Division Research Lab in Hopewell, VA, prior to working out of Morristown, NJ, as Director of Five Year Planning. An avid boater and former Commodore of the Hopewell Yacht Club, Harry turned his love of sailing into his greatest achievement. After retirement, Harry and his wife Faith (Faido) Irene Smith Heckel moved onto their sailboat and sailed extensively. Two years later Harry took a 32-foot Dreadnought hull, rigged her, and designed and finished the interior to create the Idle Queen. After Faido’s death in 1989, Harry kept sailing. At the age of 78 he completed his first solo circumnavigation. He completed his second solo circumnavigation at the age of 89. In 2007 Harry received the Joshua Slocum Society International’s Golden Circle award in recognition of this feat. Harry’s travel memoir, Around the World in 80 Years—The Oldest Man to Sail Alone Around the World—Twice! was published last year. Harry is survived by sons Harry L. Heckel III and Carl B. Heckel (Dixie) of Mechanicsville; daughters Florence H. Russell (Mike) of Cleveland, Ohio, and Faith H. Wagner (Richard) of Midlothian; siblings Florence Mary LaRiviere of Palo Alto, CA, and John W. Heckel (Catherine) of Friday Harbor, WA; 9 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, and many longtime friends. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the American Diabetes Association or the American Red Cross. In remembrance of Harry, you may wish to read his book. A memorial service is being planned.”

8 thoughts on “In Memory of Harry Lightner Heckel, Jr.

      1. What a legend,a true doer and not just a talker,im sure thats what gave him his long and fruitful life filled with adventure that most only dream of,what a wonderful legacy .

  1. Hash tagging Harry on Instagram. What a strange day, to learn of his death only hours after reading a beautiful note from Florence Russell tonite at dinner, sent upon the passing of our Dad, Juan Morales. Now it’s our turn to pen condolences. We can only hope to do half as well as the Heckels at both writing well & living well.

  2. I first heard about Harry at our church’s men’s group about 5 years ago. Carl (his son) came in one Saturday morning several years ago, visibly worried and mentioning that “he had to go take the keys to the boat from his father before he sailed around the world again.” The words just didn’t compute… father… sailed around the world… again? Carl was talking about retirement. If he even had a father, surely the gent was already in a nursing home.

    Well it turns out I was wrong. Harry had gone around twice since he retired and (at age 92 or 93) had mentioned doing it again. I then heard all about this man’s adventures and had a wonderful time reading the book last year. I was Googling the boat’s name when I came across this page. Thanks for posting the sad news.

    1. Dear George- Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story of Harry. He was a remarkable man and an inspiration to many. He will be missed indeed. –Barry

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