Allen F. Heath Sr.

Allen F. Heath Sr.

Allen F. Heath Sr.

KNOX —  Allen F. Heath Sr. — “this big guy who was also very loving,” his daughter said — put his family first and taught her to value people over material things.

Mr. Heath died at his Knox home on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. He was 76.

“Us kids were his whole life,” said Holly Busch of herself and her brother, Buddy. “He didn’t go to college yet he was the smartest guy we’ve ever known. He knew something about everything … The kids hope they can remember all the stories he told.”

Born in November 1944,  Mr. Heath was the son of the late Willard and Frances (née Lensch) Heath. His father was a farmer and his mother worked at a veterinary hospital. Allen was a middle child with an older brother, George, and a younger sister, Bev.

His family moved five times in his boyhood. “He was always working on a farm, wherever it was,” said Mrs. Busch.

Mr. Heath loved to roller skate and, in his teenage years, his daughter said, “He would drink with friends and hang out at Guptill’s Arena before roller-skating back home down what was just a normal two-lane road before it was all built up like we see today. The cops would pick them up and take the boys safely home until their next night of fun. We loved hearing about his life in simpler times.”

Life became serious in Mr. Heath’s senior year at Shaker High School. “His father lost a ton of weight and almost died. My dad stayed home to help on the farm and keep it together,” said Mrs. Busch.

Mr. Heath’s teachers and friends brought his school work to him and he managed to graduate with his class.

“I always admired him for that,” said Mrs. Busch.

After high school, Mr. Heath joined the United States Navy and served on the USS Yosemite. The woman who would become his wife, Marguerite Ann “Maggie” Heath, was so proud of his Navy service “she got a picture of each of my kids in a little tiny Navy outfit,” said Mrs. Busch.

The two had met roller-skating at Pat’s Ranch in Altamont. “It was love at first sight,” said their daughter. “He just absolutely loved her and that was it. It was just meant to be.”

Mr. Heath worked at farming and at a pool company until he settled into a job at the Nabisco Company in Latham that lasted most of his life. He started off loading trucks — but disliked the hours that kept him from his kids’ activities — and ended up as a truck driver for the company, making deliveries across the state.

“It’s a passion. He loves driving,” said Mrs. Busch. “He knows every single road.” When anyone in the family was lost or confused while driving, they would call Mr. Heath for directions.

“He had tons of stories of people he met,” said Mrs. Busch. One of them was about Hal Ketchum, a country singer, because Mr. Heath made deliveries to his parents.

“He was a very dedicated worker. He never wanted to miss days,” said his daughter.

His family, though, was the center of his life. Mrs. Busch recalled how once as a girl she had thrown a football in a hayloft and cried because she couldn’t retrieve it. Her father went to get it for her.

“The hay shifted. He fell and broke one leg and sprained the other. The dog helped him back into the house,” said Mrs. Busch. She marveled, “He was never mad at me, even then. That’s my Dad.”

She went on through tears, “I was a typical daddy’s girl. In his eyes, I could not do anything wrong.” Even when she had accidents driving his cars, she said, “He just worried if I was OK.”

“He taught his son all the things dads do plus more,” Mrs. Busch said of her father’s relationship with her brother. “He shared his love of farming, teaching him how to operate farm machinery and care for cows. They both loved mustangs.

“My dad was petrified to fly but one day he and Buddy helped free a parachuter from a tree and was rewarded with a free airplane ride. Dad agreed to go with Buddy and said it was the most beautiful view he had seen.

“He loved reading The Enterprise from cover to back. He enjoyed hanging at Mickle’s Automotive and going to races. He loved going to the dump. He loved many things but his family was his favorite.”

Mr. Heath’s life changed drastically in 1999 when he was driving a delivery truck in an ice storm on the Northway and went into a tractor trailer. Mr. Heath was trapped for four hours as equipment to extricate him kept freezing.

“He survived that, but lost his leg. He spent five months in the hospital,” said Mrs. Busch. “I was pregnant with Jenny. That was what motivated him; it gave him a reason to be strong.”

Although Mr. Heath could no longer take the walks he had loved with his kids or go to lawn sales with his wife, his daughter said, “He never complained.”

Instead, he worked on things he could still do by himself. He loved mowing his lawn on a lawn tractor. “He could take the worst lawn — it was all overgrown here when we moved in — and turn it absolutely beautiful. It’s like walking through a park. He built a stone wall and has a pond,” said his daughter.

Mrs. Busch’s family lived next door to her parents. After Mrs. Heath died of cancer in 2011, Mr. Heath missed her greatly but carried on by himself. “He was proud of being independent,” said Mrs. Busch.

Mr. Heath would regularly do his own grocery shopping, she said, giving an example of his gumption, and the store workers were friendly and supportive — “in awe of him,” she said. Restrictions that came with the pandemic last year curbed those excursions.

“My dad was very sarcastic,” said Mrs. Busch. “He would tease us but we loved that about him … He was the coolest dad. He would take us to concerts.”

Many of her friends, she said, “thought of him as their own dad. Everybody loved him. He was never too busy for them.”

Mrs. Busch said, “My dad taught me to be honest. He taught me just to care about people.”

Mr. Heath didn’t care much about material things, she said. “What’s important is family, being there for people,” she said.

Her father, she said, was the mediator in the family. Through tears, his daughter said, “He would listen and talk us through it and fix everything.”

She went on, “He was a great dad to both of us. Then, when we grew up, his love continued on to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He went to every special event. He was never too busy to be there for us all.

“We all got our turn for a road trip with him. He made us each feel special.

“Even though we will miss him dearly, it gives us all great comfort that he has taken one final road trip straight to heaven where he is free to walk, fish, laugh, and be forever with the love of his life once again.”

****

Allen F. Heath Sr. is survived by his children, Holly Busch and her husband, Darrin, and Allen Heath Jr. and his wife, Michelle; by his grandchildren, Richard Shoemaker and his wife, Michele, Devin Busch and his fiancée, Meredith, Jennifer Busch, Damon Simmons, and Haylee Simmons; by his great-grandchildren, Kirstin, Dakota, Ava, Willow, and Ella Shoemaker; by his goddaughter, Roxann King; by his sister, Bev Staulters; and by several other family members and friends. 

Moonie was his beloved constant feline companion.

His beloved wife of 46 years, Marguerite (née Bink) Heath, died in 2011; his brother George Heath died in 2019.

Calling hours will be held on Saturday, Feb. 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fredendall Funeral Home, 199 Main Street, Altamont. A funeral service will follow at 1 p.m. 

Interment will be in the spring at Grove Cemetery in Quaker Street, New York.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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