Robert W. Heald

03/26/2013 5:21 PM |

Robert W. Heald, longtime resident of Garden City and Southold, N.Y., has died in New London, N.H. He was 97.

He was the son of the late Matthew L. Heald and Olive (Cook) Heald of South Portland, Maine. He was preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Muriel Rodley Heald.

From early childhood, Mr. Heald was fascinated with airplanes. He took his first flight as a birthday gift at age 12, in 1927. After a short apprenticeship at the American Can Company in Portland, he left to attend flight school on Cape Cod. Thus began a career that would carry him around the world.

Winters spent in open-cockpit planes as a flight instructor in the same school led him to contemplate flying airliners. In 1943, he began service with TWA. He flew transatlantic air routes for the U.S. Army Air Force throughout World War II, typically between Washington and Scotland via Newfoundland, and often onward to Casablanca.

After the war he met Ms. Rodley, an air hostess, when both served on TWA international flights. Their marriage in February 1948 was noted by the United Press: “The pair met in Cairo. Muriel let Bob hold her hand the first time in Bombay. They had their first date in Jerusalem. Bob kissed her in Rome, proposed in Madrid and Muriel said ‘yes’ in Washington.”

In 1948, Mr. Heald flew for Alaska Airlines. This association led to his participation in Operation Flying Carpet, the secret evacuation of Jewish refugees from Yemen to the newly formed state of Israel. In 1949 he would fly the last plane to carry Jewish refugees from the deserted airport at Shanghai before the city fell to the Communists.

Mr. Heald spent the balance of his career as a corporate pilot, flying all over the world for Union Carbide. Having begun his flying days in open-cockpit craft, he retired a jet pilot in 1977.

The Healds raised three daughters in Garden City. Their avocations included alpine skiing, boating and golf. They were members for over 30 years of First Presbyterian Church of Southold and the North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue.

Mr. Heald lived the past three years in the Wheelock community of Hanover, N.H. There, he treasured his friendships with neighbors and staff and spent many happy hours with his extended family.

Mr. Heald is survived by his daughters, Maia Clavin and her husband, Michael, of Grantham, N.H., Robin Sung and her husband, Christopher Barbour, of Arlington, Mass., and Nancy Wilks and her husband, John, of San Diego, Calif.; as well as eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A graveside service in Southold is planned for the fall. Condolences may be forwarded to DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Homes.

This is a paid notice.