Paul M. Heffern, a civil engineer whose expertise in materials and design was called on widely by those planning roads and drainage systems, died Aug. 3 in Kingston Care Center of Sylvania. He was 79.
Mr. Heffern, of Sylvania Township, developed complications of sepsis, his son, Paul, Jr., said.
For more than 25 years, Mr. Heffern was chief engineer of the former Independent Concrete Pipe Co. in Sylvania Township, said Ed Higgins, who was executive vice president.
His design work went into storm and sanitary sewer systems, including massive vaults to keep surges of water from overflowing into waterways during downpours. He also designed the piping under Huntington Arena. He was a consultant to the firm after retiring several years ago.
“He was considered an industry-wide expert,” Mr. Higgins said. “He was a brilliant design engineer. People came from all over to talk to him about various and sundry troublesome projects.”
At work, he could defuse tense situations with humor.
“He was very warm and extremely funny, and he was self deprecating on occasion,” Mr. Higgins said. “He was well liked. I am dumbfounded by the amount of emails I’ve gotten this week on his loss and what a great guy he was.”
Mr. Heffern was an unabashed advocate of reinforced concrete pipe. He was a former director of technical services for the American Concrete Pipe Assocation and a former managing director of the Ohio Concrete Pipe Association, both in Columbus. To several hundred engineers assembled at conferences, he extolled the advantages of the material over others, his son recalled.
He also served on committees developing industry standards and received industry honors through the decades. He was a fellow of the American Society for Testing and Materials, from which he received an award of merit in 1997.
“He looked at every challenge as an adventure and as a learning opportunity,” his son said. “You couldn’t help but learn being around Dad.”
A central lesson: “Through mathematics you can figure out anything,” his son said.
He was born Sept. 2, 1937, to Evelyn and Paul J. Heffern. His father was a longtime auto dealer in East Toledo, and he grew up near Gesu Church in West Toledo. He was a graduate of Central Catholic High School and the University of Toledo, from which he received a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.
He started his career with a Toledo firm, but moved to northern California in the early 1960s and did engineering design for what became the Federal Highway Administration. Years later, he enjoyed taking his boat out on Lake Tahoe, where he had property.
The family moved to northern Virginia in 1970, and he continued to work for the highway agency.
In recent years, he owned and managed dwellings in Sylvania and Springfield townships, often redesigning the interior of individual units.
He was formerly married to the late Rosemary Scott Heffern.
Surviving are his sons Paul M., Jr., and Michael Heffern; brothers, Raymond and Johnny Heffern; sisters, Mary Kwiatkowski and Christine Therrien, and a granddaughter.
Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Gesu Church, with visitation after 9 a.m. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to Gesu Church, where he was a member, or the American Diabetes Association.
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