In Remembrance: Garson F. Heller Jr. ’57E Died on September 23 2021

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Generous and kind, sometimes to a fault, with a dry wit and a keen mind, longtime Westport resident, patriarch, and elder statesman Garson Freund Heller Jr. died on September 23, 2021.  A 40-year survivor of multiple bypass surgery, he had been experiencing more serious health issues shortly before his death. 

Born in Manhattan to Elsie (Lakoff) and Garson F. Heller on December 11, 1935, Garson was the eldest of four children.  The family moved to Scarsdale, New York, when he was 2.  He attended Scarsdale public schools, where he excelled both in the classroom and on the athletic field. He also enjoyed many adventures with his boyhood friends and siblings, including riding his bicycle into New York City for a surprise visit to his grandmother on West 79th Street when he was 11 and his younger brother was 8.

At Yale, from which he graduated in 1957 with a BE degree in chemical engineering, he was known as “Gar.” He loved all professional sports, but especially his Yankees and Steelers.  As a younger man he was a dedicated athlete, competing in numerous college intramural sports and corporate and local softball leagues, and playing doubles tennis into his 70s until health issues forced him to put down the racquet.  He was also a competitive bridge player, strategizing tricks on Metro-North both going into and out of Grand Central, playing with the same group of commuters for more than 20 years.  After retirement in 2002, he continued to play in various bridge leagues and, since the early days of the pandemic, online. He was designated a Bronze Life Master bridge player based on numerous competitions.

An avid reader, he read every word of each section of the New York Times and many other publications, and completed the Sudoku and KenKen puzzles each day in record time.  As passionate as he was about monitoring current affairs in the US and around the world, he loved Westport, the town that he and Velma moved to in 1964, with their then two little boys.  He was first elected to the Representative Town Meeting in 1969 and served for 14 years.  In 1983, he was appointed to the Board of Assessment Appeals, and later elected to a seat on that board which he held for 38 years.  In recent state and federal elections, he also volunteered as a poll worker, often staying until the last vote was counted.  He was honored by the Republican Town Committee in 2011 for his many years of outstanding service to the community, which continued until his untimely death. 

Above all else, Gar was a man of the highest morals who approached everything he did with integrity, candor, and humor.  As the longest serving member of the Board of Assessment Appeals, he strove to treat each appellant fairly and to serve both the town and other taxpayers equitably.  

Gar started his long and varied career at Mobil Oil.  With a talent for math, logic, and complex problem solving, in 1969 he moved to a technology consulting firm, Data Dimensions, where he designed content automation and workflow systems for United Press International and other large organizations.  In 1982, he joined Securities Industry Automation Corporation, which then supported the back-end trading and processing activities for the New York and American Stock Exchanges. He played a key role in the design and procurement of systems architecture for SIAC’s facilities at MetroTech in downtown Brooklyn, and was the senior director for computer acquisitions until his retirement in 2002.  

He is predeceased by his parents and brother Andrew.  He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Velma Heller; son Grant and daughter-in-law Joanne of Westport and Bradenton, Florida; son David and daughter-in-law Wendy of Simsbury; daughter Julie of Brooklyn Heights; grandchildren Bonnie Steinman and husband Zachary, Katie, Grant Jr., Lisa, Nicole, and William Heller; and two great-grandchildren, Jacob and Mia.  He is also survived by brother Richard and sister-in-law Rosemary, sister Ronnie, sister-in-law Rita, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews. 

The family will observe a private memorial. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Garson’s memory to the American Heart Association, in gratitude for the advances in cardiac care and interventional technologies that enriched Garson’s quality of life and extended his years of impact on all who knew and loved him.  

—Submitted by the family.

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