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The Captain’s Final Voyage

Hi everyone,

My apologies for being away so long.  I’ve been working on a number of really amazing projects which are being published this year. I’m going to have some guest bloggers come on in the next few days or so and talk about HeroNet Files, an anthology I contributed to. However, I’m going to write about that more tomorrow.

On February 7th this year, shortly after I finished a visit with him, my grandfather, Dr. Harry Heckel Jr., passed away. He was 97 years old. Part of the reason that I haven’t written is that I wanted to say well, a lot of things about him. I kept remembering the stories that one of my dear cousins told at his memorial service and how great a job she did. I’m his grandson, the writer, and I have trouble finding the words. Of course, I know what he would tell me. He’d say that I should just write, pick a direction and go.

He was the oldest man to circumnavigate the globe on a sailboat (with stops), and he did it twice. With my aunt (and including a chapter by the aforementioned cousin), he published a book about his journeys last year. One of my favorite recent memories was getting to sit next to him at the local Hanover Book Festival, signing books together.

As far as my writing goes, he always encouraged me. He gave me a copy of Beowulf when I was young and followed it up with Horace when I took Latin in school. He told me to follow my dreams and to stop talking about being an author and just write. When I was younger, I’d write, but I always found excuses… work, friends, important things to do, tv shows, etc. He never relented in telling me to keep writing. He believed in me, and he always inspired me. He inspires me still.

I was out searching for a specific present that my daughter wanted to give one of her friends for her birthday when I received the news. After I found the gift, I went to the closest local game store to buy myself a miniature. I wanted something and didn’t want to turn to ice cream. The young man who rang me up said to me, “I really liked your Crimson Hawks novel. I can’t wait for the next one. When is it coming out?”

I like to think that somehow my grandfather was sending me a message.

In the next week, I’m going to dedicate a page on this site to him. Many people come to this blog searching for Captain Heckel, Harry Heckel Jr., the Idle Queen, and so on, looking for my grandfather. I’ll include a link to his book permanently on that page, but for now, here’s one. It’s the story of a man who never let obstacles get in his way, although malfunctioning boat engines sometimes slowed him down.

My good friend, Brad White, sent me an email with Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar when he learned. My grandfather was always fond of poetry and it was read at his service. (Thank you, Brad.)

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

One final story from me. This weekend I went to Norfolk with my father and my family. The Captain was mentioned quite a bit. After we dropped my father back home, I said that sometimes it seems like my grandfather isn’t gone, that he’s just off sailing somewhere.

My daughter spoke up from the backseat. “That’s exactly where he is, Daddy.”


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