Gene Paul Heiney, beloved husband of Judy Heiney for 47 years, passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by his family. A Pennsylvania Dutchman born in 1933 in Wind Gap, PA, to Warren and Annie Heiney, he attended East Stroudsburg State College, and then earned his Masters’ Degree in 1960 at Columbia University in NYC in “The Teaching of Science”. He taught in Baltimore, MD, and Wilson, PA., before leaving the snow behind and moving to San Diego to help raise his nieces and nephew. He came to Arroyo Grande in 1964 and taught science for 30 years to thousands of students at Orchard and Paulding Intermediate Schools. He is fondly remembered as the Mr. Rogers of Arroyo Grande for his sweaters and famous Friday Experiment Days, (who could forget the ignition in the classroom of hydrogen derived from the electrolysis of water?), and his philosophy, “No student may fail my class.” He was a gentle soul who loved his vocation and enjoyed every day with the students. He is credited with bringing computers to the intermediate students in the district by turning his lab room into a computer lab and teaching students how to use them. He was President of the Lucia Mar Chapter of the CA Teachers’ Association on and off for 14 years, and was honored in 1985 with their “We Honor Ours Award”. He was also on the State CTA Council. He is particularly respected by teachers and administrators for having successfully negotiated the first Collective Bargaining Contract in the Lucia Mar Unified School District. After he retired from teaching in 1994 he joined his wife for 18 more years working for Pearson Education, writing Science Test Items for standardized exams used across the country to assess science mastery among students in grades K-12.
He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Arroyo Grande where he sang tenor in the choir and met Judy, and was also active in Boy Scouts, 4-H, and the Pismo Light Opera Theater. He faithfully returned home every summer to Wind Gap, taking the family in their motorhome. Ever the teacher, he always found a way when traveling to take his grandchildren to learn about the USA, and somehow they always ended up on Broadway in NYC to see their favorite show. When at home he enjoyed working in his large garden.
He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother and uncle. He is survived by his sons, Steven Davis (Kirsten), and Brian Davis (Bonnie), his daughter Erin Dewegeli, his granddaughters, Alaire Olivas (Jamie), Cally Staats and Shonna Davis, his grandsons, Cory Staats (Cynthia), Jason Davis (Crystal), Joshua Davis, and David Paine, his great grandchildren, Emily, Violet and James Olivas, Aereon and Estelle Staats, and Andrew and Eleanor Davis, his sister Virginia Sorensen and his brother Ned Hainey, and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his brother, Joseph Heiney and daughter, Laurel Staats Harris. A private family Celebration of Life was held in his garden.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Gene’s name to the Paulding Middle School Science Program. Lucia Mar Unified School District, Attn: Marilyn Dwight, 602 Orchard Street, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420.
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