Herbert S. Heavenrich may have "stepped off" (his expression) but he hasn’t stepped out of my life. He was a strong influence; my mentor, voice of reason and moral compass. Honesty was always his policy, never could get away with anything if it wasn’t the right thing to do. I should never have opened those Hanukah presents early when I was 12!
His example of being curious, asking questions and self-educating has been inscribed. His quest for knowledge was unending. From physics to the physical (he never played football but understood the plays).. He reinvented himself, professionally and was proud of all of his accomplishments. Last year, while in Miami, dad and I went to lunch every few weeks. I felt like a little girl again, I would dress up and I always got to choose the restaurant. Sometimes we'd each order a glass of wine. I think I learned then about every job he had ever had. He spoke with excitement and pride. I don’t think I ever took the time to ask or really listen before.
Another characteristic that made dad truly great, was his curiosity about people. He took genuine interest in them. It didn’t matter if they were four or ninety-four. In the last few years my interest in medicine became his interest. He’d send articles, which had special significance and email me with questions and ideas. He even managed to attend a conference that I had worked on and afterwards sent a long email on how medicine and art could be merged and what I needed to do to make that happen. He was prophetic, way ahead of his time, a visionary.
One of the most important things my father said to me before I went off to college was, “college isn’t about getting a job. It’s about opening of doors, taking classes in which you have an interest. Learning new things”.
When dad had his stroke and the neurologist came into his room to tell him what had happened, “that part of his brain had been damaged.” Dad’s response was, “well it’s my understanding that neurological branches can grow and there is the possibility that these branches can grow around the damaged area and self-repair” You could have blown that doctor over with a feather!
We proceeded to have a discussion after that and I told him that I’d heard a report that neurological branches, in the brain, can continue to grow, not because one does crossword puzzles or plays Scrabble or Sodoko but because taking new classes or learning a new subject challenges the brain’s growth.
The day before he died he said, “Hope I think you’re right about taking classes, learning something new, I think I’ll start taking Spanish lessons”. So dad!