Butler County natives father, son die two days apart

Joe Heidler, left, and his son Eric, who lived most of their lives in Butler County, died two days apart in California. CONTRIBUTED
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Joe Heidler, left, and his son Eric, who lived most of their lives in Butler County, died two days apart in California. CONTRIBUTED

A father and son with deep Butler County roots died just two days apart this month in California, the family said.

Eric Alan Heidler died Dec. 14 and his father, Joseph “Joe” William Heidler died two days later. Eric Heidler was 59 and his father, a World War II veteran, was 90.

Their bodies will be cremated and their ashes will be inurned at Woodside Cemetery & Arboretum in Middletown, probably in the spring, according to the family.

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Joe Heidler, who was born and raised in York County, Pa., served with the Army Air Force in Europe at the end of WWII. He attended Gettysburg College, graduating in 1950. The following year he moved to Cincinnati to work for General Electric.

He and Louise Wall were married on Sept 12, 1953.

The family lived in Butler County for more than 55 years. Joe Heidler taught Spanish in the Hamilton City School District for 26 years, spending summers working on his language skills in Mexico and Spain, said his son, Bill Heidler, who lives in California.

Bob Webster, owner of Webster Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements, said he took Spanish from Heidler at Garfield High School. Webster, who described himself as a class clown, said he frequently joked to Heidler that he was his “best student,” a claim the teacher quickly denied.

“Then he’d tell me to settle down,” said Webster, 61, who graduated from Garfield in 1973.

Bill Heidler described his father as “a very kind person” who worked diligently to bring people together and resolve differences. He recalled that his father taught at Garfield during a time of racial conflict and social differences in the city.

Joe Heidler and his wife lived at Mount Pleasant Retirement Village in Monroe from 1998 until the spring of 2016, when they and Eric Heidler moved to California to be closer to Bill Heidler.

Eric Heidler, born with Down syndrome, attended a Butler County education program for the developmentally disabled that matured tremendously, from church basements to an excellent facility in Hamilton, his brother said.

A few years after graduating from the program in 1978, Eric Heidler moved into a group residential home in Middletown. He participated in workshop educational and production programs at the Liberty Center and predecessor facilities, where he had many friends among his co-workers and supervisors, his brother said.

He said his brother fractured his hip in 2014 and that was the beginning of his medical problems. He used a wheelchair for the last two years, his brother said. Despite his communication challenges caused by his disability, Eric Heidler was outgoing and formed his “own language” with his close friends and family, his brother said.

“He liked to have a good time with people,” Bill Heidler said.

Bill Heidler said his father appeared to be in good health until recently. He went out to dinner in November to celebrate his 90th birthday. Then his health deteriorated quickly.

“I haven’t come to terms with their deaths,” said Bill Heidler, 62. “I miss them both. They were both wonderful people.”