By J. Romano
On Saturday, scores of local friends and family members of the late Eugene J. “Gene” Heckman gathered to celebrate a man who made public service to his community a priority.
Heckman, who served as the Thorncreek Township Trustee for 45 years, was honored posthumously and the Tri Lakes Community Park was officially renamed the Heckman Community Park. The small park, featuring a playground and pavilion, is nestled between Round and Little Cedar lakes, not far from Shriner Lake near what was once the fish hatchery.
Heckman was born in 1939 and began a life of public service at the age of 16 when he joined the volunteer fire department. His concern for a strong, trained and prepared local fire service continued throughout his life and in his role as township trustee since 1971, he ensured the Thorncreek Township Fire Department had new trucks, cutting edge technology and top notch training.
Heckman also served the residents of the township in other ways, including dedicated support of the local school where he was instrumental in opening a first-of-it’s kind computer lab in 1986. Further, Heckman had an instrumental role in developing the Tri Lakes Sewer District and the county-wide recycling program. He was involved in the Columbia City Rotary Club, Gideons International, the Whitley County Republican Party and more.
Signage bearing Heckman’s name were unveiled Saturday morning and he was celebrated by people who’s lives he had touched over the years.
Speakers for the ceremony included Bill Brice – current Thorncreek Township Trustee, Todd Nichols – president of the Tri Lakes Property Owners Association, Damien Stafford – a representative of the Whitley County GOP, John Workman – trustee of the Thorncreek Township Fire Department, Christopher Judy – District 83 Indiana State Representative and Jim Banks – 3rd District United States Representative.
A sign honoring Heckman reads, in part: “He will be remember for his unwavering faith in God, his deep love of family and his delight in great conversation.” Heckman died in 2020.