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Hundreds mourn outdoorsman, banker
Friends, sons honor Heaton as 'real deal'
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A crowd estimated at 600 filled Smith Memorial United Methodist Church in Collinsville Friday for the memorial service for banker and community leader Larry A. Heaton. (Bulletin photo)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Larry A. Heaton was remembered Friday as a father, husband and friend; a business, community and church leader; and an outdoorsman who proudly watched his sons climb to the summit of Mount Rainier.

Heaton was “the real deal ... the whole package,” said Bill Cooper, a friend and co-worker of Heaton’s who spoke at a memorial service for him Friday.

At least 600 people gathered for the service at Smith Memorial United Methodist Church in Collinsville.

An hour before the service started at noon, a line into the church had formed. By 11:30 a.m., the chapel was filled, and those still arriving were seated in overflow rooms supplied with a live video feed of the service.

The Rev. Dr. Tilden Bridges thanked Heaton’s friends and colleagues for attending the service.

“Where a joy is shared, it is increased,” Bridges said. “Where a sorrow is shared, it is lessened.”

Heaton, 55, died Dec. 9 in an auto accident in Patrick County. He was founding president, CEO and director of Franklin Community Bank; president and CEO of MainStreet BankShares, Inc.; and previously had worked in a great number of roles at local banks. He also was active in Smith Memorial United Methodist Church as well as civic and professional organizations.

“He was a family man, a father, a great husband, outstanding banker, community and church leader. He was also my close friend,” Cooper said.

He noted Heaton’s love of the outdoors, mentioning that he had reached the summit of Washington’s Mount Rainier twice.

More recently, Heaton made a third trip to Mount Rainier, Cooper said.

“He had the opportunity to take his sons,” Cooper said, “And they did the trip together as a boys’ trip. This time, Larry didn’t summit. But he watched his sons summit. And he told me that was the most amazing event of his life, to watch his sons summit that mountain.”

“God only gives us very few real friends,” Cooper said in closing. “A friend that you can talk to and will give you advice, and that will keep your confidences and has your back. They’re very rare. God has given me three in my life, and Larry was one of them.”

Heaton’s love of the outdoors was reflected on the memorial service program. On the front was a photograph of him at the 14,410-foot summit of Mount Rainier, jubilant at his accomplishment, in 2006. On the back was a photograph of him in a “Savage Race” in Orlando, Fla., in August 2011.

Following the Hymn of Comfort, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” recited by the congregation, Matt and Daniel Heaton stood together and spoke of their father.

“‘Challenge’ was a word dad asked us to use in place of words such as ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘stressed,’ the words he did not accept in his vocabulary, and demanded not be in ours,” Matt Heaton said.

“We witnessed the finest example of a great man in all phases of life,” he continued. “We had a front row seat to his marriage with my mom (Betty L. Heaton). We learned service, leadership and finance through his career in banking. And we witnessed how to balance it all by taking time in the great outdoors.”

“This week, you all helped us remember how special our dad was,” Daniel Heaton said. “He never gave up, never let an obstacle of any form get in his way of reaching whatever goal he had. He always taught us to leave on a good note.”

Following a performance of the hymn “How Great Thou Art” by the church choir, Bruce Valley, also a long-time friend, co-worker and hiking partner of Heaton’s, spoke to the crowd.

Valley described Heaton as a bold outdoorsman, a man of great physical strength and endurance, but also appreciative of beauty and poetry.

“Larry had a very sensitive, very tender-hearted side,” Valley said. “(He) was one who had a true appreciation for the beauty of nature.”

On their many backpacking trips in the early 1990s, Valley said they always looked forward to finding notes that Heaton’s sons had hidden in their father’s backpack.

“There would be notes turning up four days into the trip,” Valley said. “He always looked forward to that. So did I.”

Valley explained that Heaton was the sort of person who could not merely set out to complete a task. “He was passionate about getting an A” on everything he did, Valley said.

For instance, to train for an arduous hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Heaton and Valley hiked up and down the stairs of Piedmont Trust Bank where they worked while carrying heavily weighted packs.

Valley described his friendship with Heaton as a “transformative experience” and, in honor of Heaton’s love of poetry and classic song lyrics, Valley closed with a paraphrased version of the chorus to Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun”:

“Goodbye to you my trusted friend,” Valley said. “Together we climbed the hills. We had the joy, we had the fun, we had seasons in the sun… I love you, and happy trails.”

Heaton’s niece, Ginny Taylor, gave a solo vocal performance of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”

The memorial service ended with the devotional “On Eagle’s Wings” sung by the church choir.


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