He is the beloved husband of Joan (Tracy) Heimlich and father of five daughters: Jayne (Mark) Conroy of West Dennis; Beth (David) Smith of Wellesley; Julie (Robert) Kiely of Ipswich; Jennifer (Thomas) Conaty of Wilmington, DE; and Ellyn (Robert) Hurd of Marion. He was the proud grandfather of Mildred Conroy, Eli Smith, Eleanor Conroy, Asa Smith, June Kiely, Louise Conaty, Ian Smith, Joan Kiely, Veronica Smith, William “Will” Hurd, Thomas Conaty V, Peter Hurd II, and Frederick “Fritz” Conaty. He was the son of the late Wilhelm Friedrich and Hedwig (Scholz) Heimlich, brother of the late Alexander Heimlich, Oscar Heimlich and Gertrude Uzdavinis.
Billy was born on June 13, 1931 in Woburn, MA attending Saint Charles Borromeo grade school and graduating from Woburn High School. He was a stand-out athlete, and in 1947 was named by the Boston Post, Boston Globe and Boston Traveler to each of their All-Scholastic Football teams. He was also a member of the Massachusetts All Stars Football Team, the Boston Suburban All Stars Football Team and the Boston Globe’s All Class Team. He was inducted into the Woburn High Athletic Hall of Fame. He continued his academic and football career at Kimball Union Academy. He adored his time at Kimball Union. He went on to play football at Georgia Tech, Boston University, and ultimately graduating from Lowell Technical Institute with an engineering degree.
His engineering career was focused on the leather industry and he knew the ins and outs of every tannery in the USA. He was Head Engineer for Murray Leather, John J. Riley Company, and Woburn Machine Co. He also owned and operated Hjorth Lathe and Tool Company. He continued his career at his firm Heimlich Engineering, which allowed him to see and repair the world working and living in China, Bangladesh, Haiti, Mali, Columbia, and Mexico to name a few.
On June 29, 1957 he married the love his life Joan Tracy and they recently celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. Together they had five daughters over the next 20 years. He never missed an opportunity to refer to them as his “five beautiful daughters”. No matter how hard or dirty a job, Bill expected his daughters to pitch in and get it done. Together with Joan, they prioritized education and made many sacrifices to provide the best education to their daughters and grandchildren. Bill was also a former member of the Woburn Board of Aldermen, and a member and past President of the Woburn Kiwanis.
In 1968 he personally built a family cottage in West Dennis, Cape Cod. This decision was one of his best and cemented his love for Cape Cod. He joined the West Dennis Yacht Club (WDYC) where his family learned to sail on their Beetle Cat “Blitz Strahl” (WD100). He volunteered countless hours to the club, serving in every elected capacity including Commodore in 1979. His Steak Barbecue held every August was the hit of the summer. His WDYC friends were family.
In 1982, he purchased his adored property “Elmwood” on Grand Cove. This was a special place for him and over the years it became a family compound as his daughters purchased adjoining properties. He was a visionary gardener and spent countless hours tending to his infamous hedge, sprinkler system and roses. He hosted all five of his daughters’ wedding receptions and many more elaborate parties, including his annual and notorious Cape Cod clambake and his October Pig Roast.
Billy was an inventor, an engineer and an insatiable seeker of knowledge. He was a true Renaissance man. His curiosity was epic and he had an impressive aptitude for solving problems big and small. In the 1960s, he built a rope tow and an electronic race timer for a small ski hill in Woburn MA, so that children in the community could learn to ski and compete. In the 1970s, he received a call by a complete stranger in the middle of the night to fix the failed tank pumps at the New England Aquarium. He didn’t hesitate. Not only did he save the sea life at the aquarium, he brought along his school age daughters because he never missed an opportunity for them to learn. If a machine broke at a tannery anywhere in the world, chances are Bill Heimlich would be called in to fix it.
His work ethic was unparalleled and his physical strength superhuman. His most exceptional talent was connecting with people and forging lifelong trusted friendships throughout the world. He was the man who understood how everything worked and could design, build, and rebuild anything. Even in later years, he couldn’t be stopped. His golf cart had no boundaries and it was always welcome. Everyone wanted just a piece of his vast knowledge. He treated everyone with respect and no one was beneath him. He loved to ask questions. He was a champion of gender equality, was never afraid to speak his mind, including his strong political opinions, and he loved a good argument. He was a risk taker and fearless. He tirelessly taught his five daughters and thirteen grandchildren these values.
Above all, Billy was a giver. He would always accept a challenge to take on seemingly impossible tasks and find creative solutions. He never discussed how he helped others but you would always hear stories of his selfless acts. As a young boy in Woburn, he risked his life by running into the burning Greek Orthodox Church to save the contents of the tabernacle. He had a rare form of blood and was a lifelong blood donor. And he always made the most of his work travels. If he happened to be in a city or town where one of his friends’ aging parents lived, he would always drop by for a visit. He was a weekly food donor to homeless shelters across New England. If something needed doing, he just did it.
In lieu of flowers or donations, the family asks that you carry forward Billy’s greatest gifts – cherish your family and friends, always think before you speak, open your home to all, strive to understand how things work, appreciate the wonder of our world, and drink a Moxie. www.nicholsfuneralhome.com
View Original Notice → William “Billy” Joseph Heimlich