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Published: Sunday, 11/14/2010

Helen I. Heckler, 1913-2010: Librarian went back to college after spouse died

NAPOLEON - Helen I. Heckler, who returned to college after her husband's death and became a librarian, died Wednesday in Napoleon Lutheran Home. She was 97.

She moved to the Lutheran Home after a fall at her Napoleon home nearly a year ago.

She was born Sept. 6, 1913, to Mabel and Erwin DeTray.

Education was important in the household, her son Jan said.

Her father, a veterinarian, was mayor of Napoleon and president of the school board. Her mother was a teacher.

After she graduated from Napoleon High School, Mrs. Heckler went to what was then Bowling Green State Normal College and received a teaching certificate.

Libraries soon were to become central to her life. After Bowling Green, while visiting the Napoleon library, she stood in line behind Pharon Heckler, who grew up on a farm nearby.

"They started to kibbitz and kid around and started dating progressively, and she encouraged him to go to college and get his degree," their son said.

They married after he graduated.

He was a respected biology teacher at Napoleon High School. She was a homemaker and mother and, for a time, a cashier in the high school cafeteria.

Her husband died of a heart attack in 1962.

Two of their three sons were still at home, and she knew she had to return to school "to plan for [them] to go off to college," son Jan said. "It was a significant turn in the road."

She was unbothered that her classmates at Bowling Green State University were several decades younger.

"She was prepared to meet that challenge and get under way with another phase in her life," son Jan said.

She received a bachelor of science degree from BGSU and was a librarian for a time in Florida, Ohio. Later she was librarian at West Elementary School in Napoleon.

"I was always impressed by her pleasantness, and [she] was dressed to a T and was a charming lady," said Barbara Walker, whose mother, Edna Miller, a teacher at West Elementary, and Mrs. Heckler were friends.

Afterward, Mrs. Heckler applied for a librarian opening at the Napoleon Public Library. She was hired and worked into the 1980s.

"She just wasn't ready to stop serving and thought, 'Why not?'" her son said.

She was a deacon of First Presbyterian Church, Napoleon.

She was a member of Chapter, 232, Eastern Star. She volunteered for the local affiliate of the American Heart Association; her husband had been president.

She was a member of the Henry County Retired Teachers Association, with which she took jaunts by bus, and of the Browsers Literary Group.

"She thought of each day as something to be cherished and enjoyed being among people and a participant and serving where she could," her son said.

She and her husband married Oct. 21, 1937. He died Oct. 5, 1962.

Surviving are her sons, Tom, Jan, and John Heckler, brothers, Norman and Don DeTray, nine grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in the Walker Mortuary, Napoleon, where visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

The family suggests tributes to Napoleon Alive Inc., First Presbyterian Church, or the American Heart Association.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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