Simon Heller was born in Oak Harbor April 29, 1917, the eighth of ten children of Dutch immigrant Martinus Heller and his wife Elizabeth. Simon is survived by his sisters, Maggie Bruhn, Georgia Henni and brother, Barney.
Known to his friends as “Si,” he had numerous occupations including: farmer, ferry worker, retail store owner, dry cleaner, surveyor, bakery driver, custodian, operating engineer, real estate developer, bus driver, landlord, refrigeration technician and carpenter. You might get the idea the man couldn’t hold a job. It would probably be more accurate to say “the job couldn’t hold the man.” He was always dreaming of trying his hand at something new.
Si loved baseball with a passion. It is likely that he would have pursued it as a profession but for the Depression and the second world war. He played for teams in Oak Harbor, Mount Vernon and New Westminster, B.C. As a catcher for the Mount Vernon Milkmaids, he faced off against the famous touring baseball team “The House of David.” These traveling baseball entertainers sported long beards and delighted crowds with fancy tricks using bats and balls. But the Mount Vernon Milkmaids beat the House of David two years in a row.
When he wasn’t playing ball, Si’s next favorite pastime was dancing. Until shortly before his death, you could still see Si strutting his stuff at a local senior center. As a young man, with wavy blonde hair and boyish charm to go with his dancing skills, Simon found it necessary to spread himself around, dancing with as many girls as possible. It was at one of these old time dance in Mount Vernon that he met his future wife, then known as Orna Rockstad, of Anacortes. The couple married May 10, 1940. They had four sons, Leonard, Stephan, Ernest and Leslie. The couple lived in Blanchard, Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Seattle, Deming, Mount Vernon and Vancouver.
Si built a store on Pioneer Way, not far from the City Park and the telephone company. It became known as “Si’s Corner” and it was a landmark of Oak Harbor for many years. He and his brothers also built Oak Harbor’s Memorial Stadium where high school and local sporting events took place for many years. Si was one of the first organizers of Little League baseball in Oak Harbor. He also built a dry cleaners next to Si’s Corner building.
Orna passed away in Mount Vernon about six years ago. Simon found out that being a “bachelor” was the one thing he had never learned to do. Fortunately, he found Dee Camp, who shared his life for these last years. Together, they danced and took bus trips, played cards, and just cared about each other to the very end. Simon passed away Nov. 11, 2002 in Mount Vernon.
Simon’s philosophy was to live a good life, and enjoy your friends and family. He was always rooting for the underdog. If there was something he hated, it would be man’s inhumanity to man, and wars caused by greed. He didn’t understand why people with wealth failed to share with the poor. He had been poor enough times to know that even people who try their best can fall into debt and despair. Someone once asked him, “If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” and he answered, “A redwood because they live so long.” We know his legacy and his spirit will live on longer than the oldest redwood tree. If Si Heller has heaven his way, he will be playing baseball all day, never get tired, and spend the evening dancing with every girl at the grange hall.
A graveside memorial service will take place at the Grandview Cemetery in Anacortes, at 1 p.m., Nov. 23. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages contributions to the SIDS foundation, a cause dear to Simon who lost two great-grandchildren to the disease.
Arrangements are under the direction of Hulbush Funeral Home, Burlington.