personal history

John Steuber and Charles A S Heinle

Here we have a picture of John Steuber, Charles A. S. Heinle’s great-uncle (the “S” in Charles’ name is for for Steuber!)

The picture is from an article from the called, “Forgotten Men of Atlantic City,” published in 1940. The 1885 City Directory of Atlantic City was reviewed, and the surviving men listed were discussed.

John Steuber was a partner, with his brother Louis, in a grocery store at Indiana and Atlantic Avenues. His other brother, August Steuber, had a grocery store (“Fancy and Staple Groceries”) on Kentucky and Atlantic Avenues in Atlantic City.

This one comes in the form of a doodle Charles did. It was in a folder of his bird-watching which I still need to sort out. (Someone, somewhere, wants a list of birds seen in Colorado in 1945. And I will find them!)

I also found this treasure in the folder. A doodle Charles did, making fun of himself and other birders. He may well have done it at the CO camp in Mancos, Colorado, bored out of his mind, as his letters suggest he often was!

Charles Heinle bird watching birding

I think it’s a great look at his sense of humour, which is one of the things we all cherished about him.

UPDATE | 20 Jan 2014: I’ve just remembered that I have two shots of Charles out birding in Mancos, CO. I think they provide an excellent comparison to his cheery doodle.
Charles Heinle bird watching birding
Charles Heinle bird watching birding

Charles & Elisabeth

Charles giving one of his lecture tours for a high school class trip, sometime in the mid-eighties, speaking about Thoreau’s life and philosophies.
There was a school from somewhere in NJ who came up every year. The bus would roll up in front of the house, Charles would get on the bus, stand in the front and lead a tour through Concord.

Charles moved to Concord MA, with his wife Beverly, because it was the hometown of Henry David Thoreau, who was Charles’ life-long hero, and because he wanted to be a more active member of the Thoreau Society.

Today in Posthumous notes from Charles, we celebrate Charles’ lifelong self-education and hunger for knowledge.

Many of the notes in the pile are in this theme: they are notes Charles made of information he might need again someday. I have no idea if these were notes from college classes, or the self-education he enjoyed for the rest of his life — he saw no reason why no longer being in school was a reason to stop learning about the world, especially history and evolution and the science of the human brain.

I think the cards range throughout his years, and these are probably pretty early ones…

Charles Heinle Notes #5

Charles Heinle Notes #6

Because Charles put such emphasis on self-education and life-long learning, he was not very bothered about grades, which meant that my sister Kate and I were encouraged to get good grades, but he never pressured us the way some parents pressure their children, which I think made it easier on both of us to see school as a place to learn, not just “I must get ‘A’s!”

I myself was surprised to discovered I’d graduated college cum laude — I’d not paid the slightest attention to my GPA, just enjoyed my time at the university. And Kate graduated summa cum laude, so obviously Charles’ policy of supporting but not pressuring really paid off, there!

It’s been too long since I updated the Posthumous notes from Charles Project — it is ironic that the business of life gets in the way of taking the time to honour and remember the dead.

Today’s random draw brings us this fabulous quote:

Charles Heinle Notes #2

If you can’t read it in the image, it says,

When an elderly person dies, I say, ‘There goes one who has done his work.’

When a younger person dies, I say, ‘We must work doubly harder to make up for the loss of one who could have done something.’

Well, Charles made sure we never had to make up for any lack of his “doing something.” Indeed, I think anyone who knew him would agree that in his 95 years, he did enough for at about ten hard-working people! What we can all admire about Charles is that he did something — and he kept doing it until the Alzheimer’s cut his life’s work short. (Although not “short” by any normal standard — still, we can all agree that “normal” was not a word that applied to Charles A. S. Heinle!)

Charles Heinle Notes #2

We’ll probably never know where that quote came from (a Google search yields nothing helpful), so all we can know of it is that Charles read it somewhere, and it resonated enough with him to take the time to write in down, so he could review it and remember it.

Charles Heinle Notes #2

This is Charles’ wonderful box of treasures, which he kept at his bedside.

This is not at all the sum total of the wonderful things he has left behind, for those who love him to cherish (and wonder over), but it’s a nice little sample of the kinds of small, accumulated treasures a life as long and varied as his can accrue.

Heartrendingly, now we will never know the stories behind many of these items — and only a very few are self-explanatory — most are as puzzling and mysterious (even in their mundanity) as were so many aspects of his life!

Are the marbles from his childhood?

What doors do those keys open…?

Why did he have an ankh necklace‽

As you may recall, I started the Posthumous notes from Charles Project — and then our printer/scanner promptly broke! Well, we now have a new one, so I can start things up again!

The pile of notes has yielded this amazing quote from Francis Bacon:

Charles Heinle Notes #2

If you can’t read it in the image, it says,

There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.
Bacon

This really speaks to me. And what it tells me is that my father influenced my aesthetic sense, and even down to how I see the world every day, far more than I would ever have guessed.

Because Charles was so many generations from me in age, and because when I knew him he was so completely focused on the Pimsleur Language Programs (to the exclusion of much else, as the years went on), there was a great deal we could not share when he was alive.

So it makes me deeply happy to know that when I enjoy something weirdly beautiful or gorgeously macabre, that it’s a bit of his spirit moving in me.

It makes me even happier to think that when I make art that is strange yet striking, weird but wonderfully compelling, that part of my inspiration comes from him, and always has.

Weir2X statue beauty decay

Today an obituary for Charles Heinle has run in The Boston Globe.

Here’s the opening:

Wearing one of his Russian fur or Irish Donegal tweed hats, Charles August Steuber Heinle, with his French Briard sheepdog, was a common sight on the streets of Concord for many years. He had moved there when he was in his mid-50s to be near the place where his hero, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, was born and buried.

In honor of Thoreau’s book, “Walden, ” he married his wife, Beverly, at Walden Pond in 1973 on Christmas Day, which was also his birthday.

“It was snowing but suddenly the sun came out,” she said. “When the ceremony was over, it started snowing again.’’

His “dynamic personality’’ and his charm had attracted her, said Beverly, who was his business partner when they owned Pimsleur Language Programs. “We had a complete personal-professional relationship. Our business and home life merged and we shared every aspect of our lives.’’

Mr. Heinle, a publisher, writer, and poet, died of Alzheimer’s disease on July 23 at Concord Health Care Center in Concord. He was 95.

His daughter, Elisabeth Weir of San Francisco, said he died peacefully wearing headphones and listening to Brahms’s “Ein Deutsches Requiem” (Op. 45) — “one of his very favorite pieces.”

After fulfilling years in a variety of jobs, Mr. Heinle’s interest in foreign language education led him to meet Paul Pimsleur, creator of Pimsleur Language Programs, in 1966.

Going through my father’s things, I found a pile of note cards covered with his handwriting. I was fascinated — and then fascinated still more when I discovered that the notes were completely and utterly random: some were science-related, some were quotes from literature, some were seemingly his own thoughts, jotted down as they came to him.

One was a list of what might have been book titles and authors, seeming to be continuing in the theme of “utterly random”.

Charles Heinle Notes #1

However, after some searching, I’ve discovered all are plays, and are collected in a slim volume called Contemporary One-Act Plays — a book originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922, and now republished with the notes:

Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.

I’m buying a copy to read these plays which obviously impressed Charles at some point (he was 6 in 1922, so one assumes at some point after that!)

I never knew my father to read a play (he seemed entirely settled on history, biographies, and the science of the mind by the time I knew him), or to show the slightest interest in the theatre. I wish I could go back in time and discuss them with him!

I’ll be going through the notes and posting them up here, so watch this space for more!

I am John David Heinle. I would like to offer my perspective as number 2 son of Charles the great. When someone has been around for 95 years it’s difficult to think of them in the past tense.
Charles Heinle and son John Heinle
While a eulogy, which means to “speak well” of someone, is supposed to be about their positive aspects, one unusual story I remember about Pop touches on his general disgruntledness about working at Chilton Books many long years ago. Let me quickly add that while growing up with him was challenging at times, he delightfully mellowed later on into the amazing man we all knew.

Anyway, one evening at dinner, we asked Pop how his day was at work. Expecting the usual litany of complaints, we were stunned when he replied that it had been a good day at the office. Suddenly, without a word between us, my 2 brothers, my Mother and I spontaneously gave him a standing ovation.

Pop was an amazing salesman. He applied for a job selling refrigerators and while he was waiting for the interviewer to show up he sold 2 refrigerators. In the 1950s, he sold Singer sewing machines door-to-door. The man was a charmer.
Continue reading