Dr. Walker R. Heap passed from this Earthly Life on January 14, 2022.
He was born January 22, 1927 in Hartford, Connecticut to Walker R. Heap, Sr. and Adelaide Burchard Heap. The oldest of three, he had twin sisters, Anne and Joan, who preceded him in death.
He was an accomplished athlete, receiving Varsity Letters in baseball, track, 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 WWII, he was honorably discharged and recruited by Bates College in Lewiston, Maine on a football scholarship assisted by the G.I. Bill.
Dr. Heap was class president and captain of the football team all four years at Bates College. His football team was one of the best in Bates’ history. Under his leadership, they won the State Championship in 1946 and went on to the Glass Bowl in Ohio, where he received the game ball for running a 95-yard kick-off return for a touchdown.
As a freshman at Bates, Dr. Heap met 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 allegedly exclaimed, “that’s for me!” and proceeded to “knock down” multiple young men to meet her on the other end of the dance floor. He later married Sylvia, the love of his life, in 1951.
After graduating from Bates in 1950, he went on to 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 M.D. 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 to his orthopedic group from this outstanding program.
In 1959, Dr. Heap relocated with his family to Watertown, NY where he founded the North Country Orthopedic Group as the first orthopedic surgeon in the area. Regarded as one of the country’s leading orthopedic surgeons, he was among the first to use titanium rods to stabilize the long bones of patients with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, enabling them to live a more active life. Dr. Heap’s professional career included Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at House of the Good Samaritan and Mercy Hospitals in Watertown, an attending physician at the Lowville and Carthage area hospitals, clinical instructor of Orthopedic Surgery at Upstate Medical Center, and President of Medical Staff at House of Good Samaritan.
He retired from the North Country Orthopedic Group in 1988, but continued to stay active in the profession, becoming Medical Director of the Fort Drum Orthopedic Clinic and consulting at The Spine Center in Watertown.
Dr. Heap received numerous honors throughout his life for his many years of outstanding service and dedication to the people of Northern New York, notably, the North Country Citation from St. Lawrence University in 1992. He was honored by the U.S. Army Medical Department for ‘Exceptionally Meritorious Service by a Civilian’ for his time as chief of the newly developed Guthrie Orthopedic Clinic. Additionally, his many volunteer activities included the Medical Director of the Cerebral Palsy Clinic, the Medical Director of Rotary Camp for Crippled Children, Board Member at All Souls UU Church, and Director of the Orthopedic Clinic at the Sunmount Center in Tupper Lake.
Dr. Heap was a life-long athlete and very competitive. He was “all-in” on any activity he chose to excel in and he never went easy on anyone. In the rare event you ever did beat him – in golf, chess, cards, or croquet – you could be assured that you earned it. His many sports included hockey, golf, track, skiing, Tae Kwon Do, archery, and tennis, among others.
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 with Brittany Spaniels in field trial competitions both regionally and nationally, winning multiple championships with his beloved dogs.
In 1962, Dr. Heap and five other sportsmen from Watertown founded Little Kildare as a hunting camp in the Adirondacks, which he frequently said was one of his best decisions. He loved spending time in the woods – sharing Little Kildare with extended family in the summers and spending the fall with his Kildare hunting companions. He excelled at archery, having many successes with his bow and bringing home a deer for 26 years in a row.
Dr. Heap enjoyed gardening, horticulture, and working the land. He planted many nut and fruit trees on his farm, assisted notably by his son Walker III (who has continued the tradition) and, at times, 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 liked reading, traveling with his wife, classical and country-western music, and was a life-long learner. He frequently read medical journals and technology magazines to keep up-to-date on the latest advancements. In his later years, he was often seen with a Louis L'Amour western in his hand or sticking out of his back pocket.
His humorous expressions – many self-invented, some gleaned from his father or his time in the military – were all a part of his persona and he used them liberally in conversation. His wit was the perfect partner to his love of telling stories. He brought many an audience to tears with tales from his mischievous youth. Dr. Heap was a man who had the gift of exuding confidence and expecting excellence while intrinsically humble and congenial. He was inventive, creative, and a true Renaissance man.
He was much beloved 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 may be made to The American Chestnut Society at ACF.org or to the Walker R. Heap, M.D. 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 being planned for early summer at All Souls Church – information forthcoming.
Arrangements are with D.L. Calarco Funeral Home, Inc. Online condolences may be made to www.dlcalarco.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. Walker R. Heap, please visit our floral store.
The American Chestnut Society
Walker R. Heap, M.D. Scholarship Fund at Bates College
Advancement Office, 2 Andrews Road, Lewiston ME 04240