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.

Home was the vast Greystone Manor he bought in 1956 for $40,000, which had 22 rooms, including 8 bedrooms. The central feature was the seemingly endless shelves of books in the library. And the focal point of the library was the chair, Pop’s chair. The unwritten rule was that whenever he was in the room, no one else was allowed to sit there. When he wasn’t around however, the power struggle among his subjects kicked into high gear.

One of the greatest joys of my childhood was vocally improvising 2-part counterpoint (2 interdependent melodies that harmonize together) in the style of Bach with Pop. We experienced both our independence and unity at the same time. And had a ball doing it.

When Pop was Editor-in-Chief of Chilton Books, he often got letters to Mr. Books, an appropriate name indeed. The Chilton days bring to mind the best parties of my childhood, the annual clambakes. These yearly blowouts featured, of course, steamed clams, oysters, corn-on-the-cob, you name it, and Deacon the friendly bartender. I was too young to know or understand the true extent of these affairs, but they are indelibly etched in my memory.

In a previous incarnation (before my birth), Pop was an aspiring composer, concert pianist, and opera singer (he studied with Giuseppe Boghetti at the same time he was teaching Marion Anderson). Pop moved to NYC, but had to give up his dreams of singing opera when a surgeon’s slip during a procedure to remove polyps on his vocal chords took away some of his magnificent resonance. Having only heard his fabulous bass after the operation, I can’t imagine how powerful and gorgeous it must have been before the surgery.

Pop’s top hero was the great Henry David Thoreau, which is why we are here in Concord. As a consequence my older brother Charlie’s middle name is Henry and mine is David. Thanks Pop. He nearly finished a novel about his hero, called The Enchanted Rebel. Don’t you think that describes Pop really well.

Pop’s first child, Dolores, told me the following two tales. When she was about 4 ½ years old, Pop took her on a nature walk and she remembers it being hard to walk that far. She also remembers being with Pop and banging pans in 1945 saying “the war is over.”

When I was about 5, Pop, Charlie and I went hiking in the woods and we came to a stream and a narrow rock ledge. I was afraid to cross so Pop carried me across on his back. Another treasured memory is getting up really early on Sundays to go birdwatching with Pop. And the pancake breakfast that awaited us back home.

He was Mr. Classical music: Wagner, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Mozart, etc. were often blazing through the house. And thankfully (since I love jazz too) he also had 78s of the legendary Louis Armstrong and his Hot 5 (and Hot 7) recordings.

Charles had such magnificent courage. One unforgettable day in the early 1960s, our next-door neighbor’s house was on fire. Pop ran inside their burning house, grabbed the car keys, ran into their car — which was parked right next to the center of the house — and drove the car away just before the fire would have reached the car and exploded the house to smithereens! What a man!

I love you more than I ever knew. How can you ever really be gone? The last thing Pop said to me was, “Hang in there.” Something he surely always did.

We all know who’s party this is, so let’s celebrate his marvelous life and get to know each other better while we still have ours. I’d like to close with one of Pop’s poems, Elegy, which is a written rather than a spoken eulogy:


To those who have “gone on a little way” …

We dedicate this little song to you.

You are unseen, but unforgotten still.

Departed ones, we keep your memory true.

The darkened room has lost of its despair.

It is as though you had not gone at all;

Expectantly we wait to hear your voice.

In bird-song as the twilight shadows fall.

5 Responses to “Eulogy for Pop” By John David Heinle

  • Steve Leight says:

    Dear John: I was surfing the internet this evening checking for info about several of my high school classmates that passed away recently (my 40th reunion was last night) when I came upon your dad’s obituary. I’m sorry to hear of his passing. I must admit I did not know much about the accomplishments and passions of his life, they are quite remarkable. I called my mom (now 90) and read her some of the highlights from the obit, she sends her regards and sympathy. Please extend these to the rest of the family. Eleanor and I talked for a while about the great memories we have of visiting your family in the great huge house. I remember the library and your dad singing from “his” chair. Those trips were some of my favorite memories growing up. I know it’s been a long time, please feel free to drop me a note if you wish.
    Sincerely, your cousin Steve

  • J.Budd Steinhilber says:

    Dear John David: Maybe there is such a thing as ESP! I started an internet search for an old friend Charles Heinle this morning (hoping to reconnect after 67 years)—only to discover with great sadness his recent obituary posted online. Charlie and I became good friends when fate (and the Selective Service System) tumbled us together sharing a dorm barracks at CPS Camp #111 in Mancos, Colorado. He had most recently been serving as a researcher for the author Irving Stone. We had many wonderful long conversations about history, philosophy and the arts. I knew of his love for classical music (but he never mentioned his early dream of becoming an Opera singer). I recall that he was an inveterate bird-watcher. Particularly when it came time to do the annual Audobon Bird Count he dragged me along to assist—despite below freezing weather in waist deep snow. (Somewhere I have several B&W photos of that excursion). Let me know if you’d like copies. Good memories, despite the environment and tribulations. Charlie helped make the days not only more tolerable but vastly more interesting. Me ka pumehana (Hawaiian for “with warmth”) Aloha, BUDD

  • Shelly Rosen says:

    Hello Family,
    Today I was surfing the Internet, checking out some language programs and decided to see what Mr. Heinle was doing, knowing his age was way up there and regretfully found the obit. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Back in 1963, 1964, 1965 I was a French teacher using Voix et Images at Thomas Williams Jr. High where John Heinle was my student and Mr. Heinle was my mentor. He came into my classroom many times bringing visitors from St. Cloud, Fr. to observe the oral-aural method from Chilton. I loved the program and I loved teaching John who was a fantastic 8th grader. Many years later, I went up to Concord, stayed with Mr Heinle and his new wife.They just had a baby and were only making real, healthy food in the blender…no bought baby food ! At that time I was interested in the program in Hebrew. Again, a wonderful experience. Moving light years ahead, I purchased the Pimsleur Program in Italian when I made a phone call to Pimsleur, not knowing of Mr Heinle’s connection. He answered the phone and that was a wonderful serendipitious (sp?) moment and we had a long conversation catching me up to date on what he had been doing since my last visit to Concord. What a wonderful interesting and dynamic man…sorry I didn’t know him better but he certainly influenced my life for the better. Shelly Rosen (Mrs Rosen from Thomas Williams Jr. High)

  • Elin Woodger says:

    John, I just loved reading your eulogy! You express yourself beautifully, and I enjoyed seeing all the pictures – brought back a lot of memories from many years back when I worked in an office in your father’s house in Concord. My best regards to you and all your family.

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