Community, Creswell

Heyman turns 100, wonders what’s next

CRESWELL – Now that Richard Heyman has lived to be 100, what’s next on his bucket list?

“I don’t know, but it will be something different,” the retired Air Force Colonel said Saturday after his 100th birthday party at Hobby Field, Creswell’s local airport.  

“I haven’t made a plan. I just know I’m not going to hibernate. I’m not going to sit here and watch the world go by.” 

His friends and family wouldn’t expect anything less. They marvel over his memory, his way with numbers, and, most of all, his feisty, passionate personality, which hasn’t changed as the years pass by. 

“I wouldn’t exert my body, but I think I could sure work my brain more than I’m doing,” Heyman said. “Who knows, there might not be anything that comes along that will make me want to work on it, but I betcha I’ll find something that I’ll want to do.

“When I look back on a few people I’ve known who’ve reached 100 years old – with a couple of exceptions – their mind has left their body behind. People that get to be 100 years old, they’re not really able to converse. I want to keep moving forward.”

Heyman said the overflow crowd at the party shocked him. 

“I was amazed at the number of people there today,” he said. “If there had been one-tenth of the number of people there, I would have said that would be about right.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to have a crowd like that. I feel very humbled.”

BOB WILLIAMS / CHRONICLE PHOTO.

So who was in the crowd? 

For starters, there was John Glen (no, not the astronaut John Glenn, who died  7½  years ago). Glen directed all five James Bond movies during the 1980s – more than any other 007 film director. Glen, who’s from the UK, belongs to the Quiet Birdmen, an exclusive club of aviators. Richard was a guest speaker for the Birdmen in Southern California, and was a big hit. 

Richard and Barbara were joined at their table by their grandson Douglas and his wife Jien, who drove down for the big birthday bash from Hillsboro. Both earned PhDs in mechanical engineering at Oregon State.

Also on hand was Dr. Kenneth Singer, one of the nation’s leading orthopedic surgeons. He teamed with his wife Kenda to win the 2020 University of Oregon Pioneer Award for being agents of progress. Kenda specializes in women’s health and dermatology.

“Ken Singer is a great guy. He did my carpal tunnel,” Barbara said. “But I told him, I’ll never forgive you, Ken Singer, because he did both of Richard’s carpal tunnels at the same time, so I had to do everything for him.” 

***

The party was highlighted by a highly captivating slide presentation by Darrin Humble, who helps run the airport with his wife, manager Shelley Humble. 

“How often do you get to celebrate a centenarian? They’re both so great. We’re lucky to have them,” Shelley said.

In recent weeks, Darrin enjoyed his time with Dick and Barb, finding out all sorts of details about his career as a fighter pilot in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. 

“I spend an hour a month with him going to meetings. I was raised around World War II veterans and to be able to have dinner with a World War vet in 2024 is pretty special,” Darrin said. “I tell people he’s my hero. To go through 3 wars and fly all the planes he got to fly  – I tell him he’s won life’s lottery.

“He’s such a wonderful person to spend time with. I’ve been in flying all my life, but it’s a treat to hear all the stories and to be around somebody who’s this old with such a great memory. 

“Every time Dick has told me about D-Day, it’s always a different story. He’s a fantastic storyteller, because you always get a different color, a different flair. He’s really an incredible storyteller.” 

James Roller, one of Richard’s old golf buddies, said he was constantly amazed at the way Richard could calculate stats – “Liters to gallons and so forth,” he said. Richard played golf every week until a foot problem forced him to stop playing about two years ago. Now 83, Roller was not part of the large group of golfers who convened at the Heymans’ house recently for an early birthday celebration. 

“We all just like to lie to each other, that’s what we do,” Roller said. “I just marvel at his mental capacity – he’s a young guy there.”

Longtime friend Bob Lowry said he has a favorite Richard story:

“He tells us of being in East Berlin with a very arrogant tour guide who says, ‘None of you have ever been here,’ and Dick says, ‘Well, you know, I have,’ and the tour guide says very arrogantly, ‘You go ahead and tell everybody in this assembled group just how you happened to be here, since East Berlin just opened up,’ and Dick says, ‘Well, in February 1944, I was in a P-51 Mustang. I was going 500 miles-an-hour, 300 feet off the deck, chasing you boys out of town.’” 

Gary Ludeke lives just down the street from the Heymans. About 10  years ago, Richard was taking a walk when he saw that Ludeke was building his own airplane in his garage. 

“When I asked him if he was a pilot, he said he used to be. When I asked him what he flew, he  asked me how much time did I have,” Ludeke said. “Then he gave me a brief rundown of his military career. It was very impressive, to say the least.”

Ludeke says he enjoys talking about airplanes with Richard. But he knows better than trying to compare stories with the old fighter pilot. 

“Aviation has many commonalities but Dick has an endless supply of stories,” said Ludeke, who was 12 when he first fell in love with flying. “People think flying airplanes is risky business, but I’m doing it on my own terms and I’m not getting shot at.” 

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