URBANA — H. Clifford "Cliff" Heaton, 89, of 408 Evergreen Court West, Urbana, died unexpectedly Saturday, March 30, 2013.
He was born during a snowstorm on Jan. 20, 1924, in Princeton, a son of Howard E. and Dorothy (Church) Heaton. His childhood was spent on the family farm. He attended a one-room school, where his most vivid memory was of being punished for passing notes to a friend while in second grade.
He graduated from Princeton High School in 1942, after which he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Following his discharge from the military, he attended the University of Illinois, earning a Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, from the College of Agriculture in 1949.
He married Carol J. Hatland of Walnut on June 5, 1949. She preceded him in death, as did an infant son and daughter. His grandparents, parents and only brother, Richard, also preceded him in death.
Survivors include his loving wife, Jane (Trishman) Heaton, whom he married on Dec. 28, 1986, in Urbana; his brother's family, Mrs. Richard (Janice) Heaton, and four nieces (Diane, Susan, Karen and Beth Heaton, and their families). He was very fond of Jane's mother and twin sister, Jean, and her family.
His passion was agriculture. He was the perfect example of the adage, "You can take the boy out of the country; however, never the country out of the boy." Agriculture was his life.
He was employed as assistant farm advisor in Iroquois County from 1949 to 1951, when he accepted the position as farm advisor in DeKalb County. Following that, he accepted a managerial position with DeKalb Research, based in Urbana. In 1979 he became a special regional sales manager, a position he held until he retired from the company. He worked for the Thorp Seed Company of Clinton, Ill., for several years. He was very active in managing farm land at Princeton until his death.
Cliff became a member of the First United Methodist Church in Champaign in 1954. He was a lifetime member of the Princeton Masonic Lodge, as well as several other community organizations.
He believed that the education he received at the University of Illinois was a major contributor to what he called his "successful good life." He was a staunch supporter of the university's basketball and football teams, and was a member of the President's Council. His involvement with the staff and students of the Agronomy Department (Crop Sciences) was very special. He was particularly interested in hybrid corn research.
A highlight for Cliff was seeing the original Morrill Land Grant Act document on loan from the National Archives, which established land grant colleges. He relished being geographically near the Morrow Plots, an experimental cornfield at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The plots are the oldest of their kind in the Western Hemisphere and the second oldest in the world. They were established in 1876 as the first experimental corn field at an American college, and continue to be used today. He monitored the crops each growing season. The plots, now in the middle of campus, are so important that any construction that would block sunlight needed by the plants is prohibited.
Activities Mr. Heaton enjoyed in retirement included participation in stock and commodity markets. He played golf and explored Heaton family heritage. Since the Heatons were early settlers near Princeton, in Bureau County, a trip to see an historical 250-year-old Burr Oak was of great significance to him. The site is near where, in 1835, Reese Heaton purchased 160 acres of land for a total of $10.
Cliff had the opportunity to visit the Heaton-Hopewell blast furnace, the first one west of the Allegheny Mountains, near Youngstown, Ohio. He represents the last of the 10th generation descended from Nathaniel Heaton Sr., who migrated from England in the early 1600s.
He and Jane enjoyed being with neighbors, friends and family, and especially the gift of daily companionship with each other in their later years.
Renner-Wikoff Chapel and Crematory is in charge of final arrangements. Private interment will be in Oakland Cemetery, Princeton.
An informal reception and celebration of his life will be held at the First United Methodist Church Friendship Center, 210 W. Church St. in Champaign, on April 21 from 2 to 5 p.m. Family and friends are invited to come when they wish and stay as long as they like.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the University of Illinois Foundation, Harker Hall (1305 W. Green St., Urbana, IL 61801), the First United Methodist Church or an organization of the donor's choice.
Condolences may be offered at www.renner-wikoffchapel.com or mailed to Renner-Wikoff Chapel, 1900 S. Philo Rd., Urbana, IL 61802.