Danny George Heavilin passed away at the age of 81 on April 22, 2022 under the care of Hospice and the staff at Seaview Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, Eureka. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Patricia Heavilin, five children, Shannon, Justin, Raymond, Carla, and Rachel, brother Jack Heavilin, sister Dolores Freiberg, and numerable grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Danny was born in Lakeview, Oregon in 1940 to parents Oral (Slim) and Mary, lifetime cattle ranchers of Eastern Oregon.
Danny left the ranch in Fort Rock, Oregon, and enlisted in the Navy. Drawn by the allure of hazard pay he sought a position on a submarine, but he was instead posted to the destroyer USS Wilhoite (DE-397). Serving in Operation Deep Freeze meant extended deployments in dangerous ocean and for this he received a medal for hazardous duty. As a radarman sailing through Antarctic icebergs, Danny managed to get all the hazard without the hazard pay.
But it was back at the port in Dunedin, New Zealand that he first met Patricia Graham. As was the custom in Dunedin, when a navy ship docked families would take a sailor home for a hot meal and to Sunday service in the morning. This introduced Danny to Kiwi hospitality, and to Patrica. After another, seemingly unlikely chance meeting some months later in Sydney, Australia, Danny was sold. Discharged from the service, he returned to Oregon and posted an engagement ring to Patricia asking for her hand in marriage. She consented in a letter (that Danny kept until the very end). Danny flew back to New Zealand and they married in Dunedin in 1963. Danny and Patricia honeymooned on the SS Oriana, stopping at Suva, Hawaii, Vancouver and finally San Francisco, where he bought two bus tickets to the ranch in Eastern Oregon and they stayed in San Francisco until their money was gone.
Danny worked before marriage as a fire spotter for the Forest Service; living high up in an observation tower along with his companion, Zeek, a small black border collie. To teach Zeek how to retrieve birds, Danny swam into freezing lakes to retrieve ducks with his own nose. Danny led by example, and he would joke about potty training Zeek from the balcony of his lookout 30 feet in the air.
After returning to Oregon with Pat, Danny simultaneously worked for the Forest Service, started their family, and earned his bachelor’s degree at Humboldt State University; the first Heavilin to attend college. He began working in fire research, then became involved in timber research, working for some years and publishing a number of highly reference publications. Later he was promoted to Silviculturist Supervisor for the Six Rivers National Forest. At the height of political turmoil surrounding spotted owls, 2-4D, illegal pot farms, and clear cutting, Danny somehow managed to reconcile his conservative cowboy roots within one of the final bastions of hippiedom that was Arcata in the 1970’s.
Even during those contentious years, people from all over enjoyed his company. Danny’s household was a haven for all, and dinners regularly lasted hours. As his family grew, his dinner table grew too. He built an enormous dining table from two inch thick solid oak, over eight feet long and four feet wide. The benches were packed shoulder to shoulder with hungry college students, neighborhood kids, foreign exchange students, and priests. Eventually, family became the recipients of many of the fine pieces of furniture he made.
One of Danny’s favorite events was an annual St. Mary’s Elementary School talent show, where Danny along with some close friends would don women’s evening dresses and parade on the catwalk in a mock fashion show. Prior to one such event, Danny was exhibiting his racy little black dress for a neighbor, when an officer cruised by on patrol. All six feet and three inches of Danny high-heeled it back home before the cop could circle around and come back to question him. He and other fathers of St. Mary’s School children delighted all over the years with ballet in work boots, discordant orchestra performances etc.
Once on a Lampoon styled camper van family vacation through New Zealand, during which one child was left behind by mistake in Christchurch, (and then again the same child disappeared from a 747 just prior to take-off), Danny nicked a shop’s awning with the overhead of the camper van. Pleasantries with the store owner were exchanged and the man assured Danny that he was intending to remodel anyway. Danny offered to help by backing up and hit it again.
Danny was an eminently practical and uncomplicated man. When one of his sons suggested he was going on a meditation retreat, Danny simply said, “Why are you gonna go there to just sit on your butt for 10 days?” But with that said, one of his greatest accomplishments was his evolution from a provincial, conservative Eastern Oregon up-bringing to an educated, well traveled, happy human being: from his engagement with hippies, liberals and all in his beloved Arcata community and the acceptance of his children’s choice of professions (becoming teachers and such) to quite literally becoming a latte-drinking Volvo-driver. He simply loved people and was just as likely to razz one for long hair as he was to give a stranger $20 for a hot meal.
Danny’s favorite piece of music was Smetana’s “The Moldau”, he cried reading Never Cry Wolf, liked to collect beach glass on long walks with his dogs, traveled overseas often but above all was extremely proud of his children, and loved spending time with his grandchildren.
Lying in bed at Seaview, he insisted he was “just relaxin’, and when visitors dropped by he would still greet them with his favorite greeting to all “You’re looking good for a kid!”
Danny lived a rich and full life, inspiring countless people, and left the world better than he found it. He is deeply missed by many family and friends. Internment at St Mary’s cemetery, date to be determined.
The obituary above was submitted by Danny Heavilin’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.