dr. Walker R. Heap | obituaries

dr. Walker R. Heap passed away from this earthly life on January 14, 2022.

He was born on January 22, 1927 in Hartford, Connecticut to Walker R. Heap, Sr. and Adelaide Burchard Heap. The eldest of three, he had twin sisters, Anne and Joan, who preceded him in death.

An accomplished athlete, he received Varsity Letters in baseball, track and field, and football. His football talent made him a favorite of coaches and earned him a scholarship to the esteemed Hopkins Preparatory School. After graduating from Hopkins, he enlisted in the Navy where he was assigned to the newly developed School of Radar and Electronics. At the end of World War II, he was honorably discharged and recruited by Bates College in Lewiston, Maine on a football scholarship assisted by the GI Bill.

dr. Heap was class president and captain of the soccer team at Bates College for all four years. His soccer team was one of the best in Bates history. Under his leadership, they won the state championship in 1946 and went to the Glass Bowl in Ohio, where he received the game ball for executing a 95-yard kick-off return for a touchdown.

As a freshman at Bates, Dr. Heap and fell in love with his future wife, Sylvia. They met at the very first freshman dance, where after seeing her from across the room, he reportedly exclaimed, “That’s for me!” and went on to “take down” several young men to meet her on the other side of the dance floor. He later married Sylvia, the love of his life, in 1951.

After graduating from Bates in 1950, he attended Yale Medical School, where his original research on calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D absorption earned him election to the Scientific Research Honor Society, Sigma Xi. He graduated in 1954 with his MD and was accepted into the acclaimed internship and residency program in Orthopedic Surgery under Dr. Carl Badgley in Ann Arbor, Michigan. dr. Heap later recruited three partners for his orthopedic group from this outstanding program.

In 1959 Dr. Heap moved with his family to Watertown, NY, where he founded the North Country Orthopedic Group as the area’s first orthopedic surgeon. Considered one of the nation’s foremost orthopedic surgeons, he was one of the first to use titanium rods to stabilize the long bones of patients with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, enabling them to lead more active lives. dr. Heap’s professional career has included chief of orthopedic surgery at House of the Good Samaritan and Mercy Hospitals in Watertown, attending physician at the hospitals in Lowville and Carthage, clinical instructor of orthopedic surgery at Upstate Medical Center, and chairman of the medical staff at House of Good Samaritan.

He retired from the North Country Orthopedic Group in 1988 but remained active in the profession, becoming medical director of the Fort Drum Orthopedic Clinic and advising at The Spine Center in Watertown.

dr. Heap received numerous awards throughout his life for his many years of outstanding service and dedication to the people of Northern New York, most notably the North Country Citation from St. Lawrence University in 1992. He was honored by the Medical Department of the United States Army for “Exceptionally meritorious service by a civilian” for his time as head of the newly developed Guthrie Orthopedic Clinic. In addition, many volunteer activities have included the medical director of the Cerebral Palsy Clinic, the medical director of Rotary Camp for Crippled Children, a board member at All Souls UU Church, and director of the orthopedic clinic at the Sunmount Center in Tupper Lake.

dr. Heap was a lifelong athlete and very competitive. He was “all in” for whatever activity he chose to excel in and he was never easy on anyone. On the rare occasion that you’ve ever beaten him — in golf, chess, cards, or croquet — you can bet you’ve earned it. His many sports include hockey, golf, track, skiing, Tae Kwon Do, archery and tennis.

He was an avid outdoorsman and hunter. He developed S’no Fun Shooting Preserve on his farm in Evans Mills, where he bred, raised, and competed Brittany Spaniels in field trial competitions both regionally and nationally, winning multiple championships with his beloved dogs.

In 1962, Dr. Heap and five other Watertown athletes set up Little Kildare as a hunting camp in the Adirondacks, which he often said was one of his best decisions. He loved spending time in the woods – sharing Little Kildare in the summer with an extended family and spending the autumn with his hunting companions in Kildare. He excelled at archery, had many successes with his bow and brought home a deer for 26 years in a row.

dr. Heap enjoyed gardening, gardening and tilling the land. He planted many nut and fruit trees on his farm, helped most notably by his son Walker III (who has continued the tradition) and sometimes all of his children and grandchildren. A conservationist at heart, he was passionate about preserving endangered trees for future generations and was actively involved with The American Chestnut Society.

He loved reading, traveling with his wife, classical and country western music and was a lifelong learner. He regularly reads medical and technology magazines to keep abreast of the latest developments. In his later years, he was often seen with a Louis L’Amour western in his hand or out of his back pocket.

His humorous expressions—many invented himself, some coming from his father or his time in the military—were all part of his personality, and he used them liberally in conversation. His humor was the perfect partner to his love of storytelling. He brought many an audience to tears with stories from his mischievous childhood. dr. Heap was a man who had a gift for radiating confidence and expecting excellence, while being intrinsically humble and sympathetic. He was inventive, creative and a true Renaissance man.

He was much loved by family, friends, patients and colleagues. His dedication to his family and his community will never be forgotten.

dr. Heap is survived by his loving wife Sylvia, his three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to The American Chestnut Society at ACF.org or to the Walker R. Heap, MD Scholarship Fund at Bates College for a scholar-athlete who has demonstrated qualities of service and leadership. Gifts can be sent to Bates College, Advancement Office, 2 Andrews Road, Lewiston, ME, 04240 or by calling 207-786-6248.

A memorial service with military honors is planned for early summer at All Souls Church – information to follow.

Arrangements have been made with DL Calarco Funeral Home, Inc. Online condolences can be made to www.dlcalarco.com

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