John R. “Jack” Heaney was reunited with his loving wife of 66 years, Helen, on Friday, January 20, 2023, after peacefully passing away at his Greenport home.
He was the ninth of the 10 children born to William Heaney and Julia McCaffery on Nov. 8, 1931. In an ironic twist of fate he was the ninth child of William and Julia to pass, leaving brother Bernard as his last surviving sibling.
Predeceased by his wife; parents; his sons-in-law Robert and Jeff; and great-grandson Benjamin, Jack is survived by his seven daughters Katherine (Robert), Gwendolyn (Garry), Theresa (Jeff), Rosemarie (Keith), Annemarie (Kenneth), Patricia (John) and Jennifer (Edward Jr.); 13 grandchildren, Gregory (Linda), Jacquelyn (Kurt), Nicole (Charles III), Jack, Shawn, Jeffrey (Kasey), Callie, Kristen, Kassandra (Mace), Natalie, Stephen, Jenna and Emily; as well as 10 great-grandchildren, Nicholas, Charles IV, Camden, Shane, Garrett, Katrina, Jeffrey, Brady, Kinley and Emsley.
Jack, as his friends called him, was a generous, giving and gregarious individual with a penchant for story telling. Whether he was describing growing up on Fourth Street with his brothers, walking home from school in the midst of the 1938 hurricane, his years as an athlete for Greenport or his time in the United States Navy, Jack’s enthusiasm for describing the minutiae of his experiences never escaped him.
He would answer any question you asked him with exception of one: the details surrounding the 1948 Greenport High School sophomore Christmas party. He went to meet a girl named Helen, and, as fate would have it, he ended up falling in love with a different girl, also named Helen, at the party. If you asked either Helen or Jack the details of that evening, their response was simply … “Can’t tell.”
The night in 1948 was the start of Jack and Helen’s 71-year journey together here on Earth. They entered the sacrament of marriage on Aug. 22, 1953, when Jack was on leave from the USS Norfolk. Shortly after Jack was discharged from the Navy, they would settle into a modest residence in Greenport. Their home was the place of so many wonderful memories, as well as the launching pad for their legacy of love and tradition which both “Nanny” and “Pop” instilled in their seven daughters. Fittingly, it was the same place where Jack’s journey here with us would end.
Jack had an innate acumen for numbers as well as an incredible talent for carpentry and woodworking. With limited formal education past high school and seven daughters to support, Jack utilized his talents any way he could. Be it through the trades with his physical abilities as a painter, plumber, carpenter, and his small business “7 Hearts Wood Products” or with his intellectual abilities as the director of transportation, maintenance and engineering at Plum Island Animal Disease Center and a tax preparer.
Often he was a white-collar worker by day and a blue-collar worker by night, yet he placed the same amount of importance on each task, whether it was a difficult budget negotiation on Plum Island or cutting in a closet when he was painting a house. His work ethic and attention to detail were unimpeachable.
Both Jack and Helen firmly cemented within their family not only the importance of community service, but also helping those who were less fortunate than they were. There are so many examples of how Jack made a difference in the lives of others. He was a man of resolute character who led by a quiet example.
Jack was a dedicated communicant of St. Agnes R.C. Church in Greenport as well as an active member of the Greenport Chapter of the Catholic War Veterans and American Legion. He volunteered his time for construction projects and block parties for those entities. No matter what organization Jack was in, he was rarely ever out front in search of accolades, but in the background doing the heavy lifting, for the sole purpose of improving the lives of those around him.
He was a “girl dad” in every sense of the term, helping support not only the local chapters of the Girls Scouts, but also the surrounding chapters, as his Greenport home was once the distribution hub for all Girl Scout cookies on the North Fork and Shelter Island. Although he did cherish having seven daughters it came with a few logistical issues … there was only one bathroom in the house. Also, who did he accompany to the father-daughter banquet? Luckily the neighbors would let him use their bathroom and the Heaney brothers would back Jack up as stand-in “Dads,” accompanying their nieces to the dinner so everyone had her own escort.
Although Jack never asked for anything in return, he would benefit in his final years from the seeds he would sow earlier in his life, as he became more reliant on the assistance of others; especially in his last year of life. The sacrifices made by his daughters and their families were not lost on Jack, as he continually expressed his gratitude for their love and support.
The passing of “Pop” not only extinguishes a bright light from our lives, it extinguishes a small piece of our identity. Although all of us who knew and loved “Pop” feel a deep sense of loss, as time moves forward the tears we currently shed will turn to smiles as we reflect on the examples and expectations he set for us.
The family will receive visitors Thursday, Jan. 26, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at St. Agnes R.C. Church. Burial will follow at St. Agnes R.C. Church Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the B. Timothy, Shawn T. and Kerri P. Heaney Memorial Scholarship can be made. Please mail to 532 Whiteleysburg Road, Harrington, DE 19952.
This is a paid notice.