A Tribute to Longtime Frontera Supporter, Dick Heller

Submitted by Frontera Board Member Maurie Haas –
Frontera Audubon extends its condolences to the family of Dick Heller, who recently passed away in Weslaco.  Dick was a retired newspaper editor from Decatur, Indiana, but when he arrived in the Rio Grande Valley he became a devoted birder and nature lover.  Anyone who ever had the privilege of going out birding with Dick will remember his deep hearty laugh, his relentless pursuit of  basically any species with feathers, and his sincere enthusiasm  and excitement when he found whatever bird he was looking for.  He never went anywhere without a huge jug of iced tea beside him on the car seat.   He was a man with a quick wit, interesting politics, and  a keen interest in and knowledge of  the world around him.  He also had a big heart and a willingness to give freely of his time and  resources to the causes in which he believed .  He served on the Frontera Board of Directors for several years and also served as president for a year.  He brought a businessman’s perspective to the board and helped guide Frontera ‘s   growth and direction during an exciting time in its history.  There are probably a lot of folks reading this who have a “Dick Heller Story” ready for the telling.  Rest in peace, Dick.

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One response to “A Tribute to Longtime Frontera Supporter, Dick Heller

  1. Martin Hagne - VNC

    In Memory of Dick Heller –
    A True Valley Nature Center Supporter

    I first met Dick Heller one evening a long time ago at a Rio Grande Audubon Society meeting at the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco, Texas. He was introduced to me as a past president of the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS). Those were days in the infancy of my own birding “career” and it was an honor to meet someone like Dick.

    I soon learned that Dick, along with other friends, put in hour after hour volunteering for the US Fish & Wildlife Service, visiting and helping on LRGV NWR tracts throughout the Valley. I know Dick and the Service did not always see eye to eye on some issues, but he and many others put in a lot of work for them nonetheless.

    Dick was an avid Christmas Bird Count fan, and I had the pleasure in accompanying him on several counts over the years for the Falcon Dam CBC. I soon became a CBC junky myself, and now often participate in six or seven counts each year. As time went by and I became a CBC compiler, running two Valley counts, Dick was often the first to sign up as a volunteer counter.

    Volunteerism was a big part of Dick’s life it seemed as long as I knew him. Especially the last several years, Dick became a regular volunteer and supporter of the VNC. He would come weekly, if not more often, and collect all the aluminum cans folks would bring in. Then he would drive to whatever recycling center paid the most, even up to Starr County at times, and trade them in for cash, which he brought back to the VNC.

    I’m not sure, but I think many times he padded that cash pile… I could never see that those cans would bring in as much as they did. Weekly we would hear Dick walk in, and his fist line, besides hello, was “Any special needs today?” If we were ever short on boring stuff like paper towels, sugar for the hummers’ feeders, glass cleaners, etc., etc., Dick would take off to the store and bring back the stuff… all donated of course.

    But it wasn’t just the VNC he helped, even when he visited us. Staff collected used stamps that he collected for another organization, and the pull tabs on the aluminum cans for the children’s hospital. We could see him almost daily in Gibson Park in front of the VNC looking for cans and tabs.

    It was a really neat day when Rick Diaz came from NewsChannel 5 and did a great piece on his Con Mi Gente news show about Dick and his time here at the VNC. It was good to see someone so deserving honored locally.

    It was an honor to be part of Mr. Heller’s life and his weekly activities here. We are all much richer for it. It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to such a great man with such compassion for others. But he always has a place here at the VNC! Thank you, Dick, and may you rest well.

    Martin Hagne
    Executive Director
    Valley Nature Center
    Weslaco, TX

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