Honoring Harold “The Legend” Heglar

Honoring Harold “The Legend” Heglar

Honoring Harold “The Legend” Heglar

By / Local News / Tuesday, 04 February 2020 21:54

Harold Heglar pictured at right during a retirement ceremony.

The Town of Kure Beach recently honored the passing of Harold Heglar, a life-long native of the community - a legend who will always be a part of the history of the Town.

Harold Luther Heglar passed away surrounded by family and friends, holding his beloved wife, Diane, on January 20, 2020 in his home. Harold leaves behind his loving wife Diane, his brother Jerry (Cathy), his sons David (Lisa), Mike (Shari), his step daughter Amy (Aaron) King, step son Timothy Holden and 8 grandchildren - Elise, Erin, Matt, Micah, Weazy, Nay Nay, Eli, and Issac.

Harold was born in Mooresville, NC on November 6, 1947. He moved to Kure Beach in 1948 and spent his entire life there. He proudly served the town of Kure Beach for 45 years on the fire department, acting as Fire Chief for 42 of those years. He remained in town for every hurricane the island has experienced since his initial move including major Hurricanes Hazel, Diana, Fran, Floyd, Florence and Dorian. As the fire chief Harold was intimately involved in all aspects of preparation and recovery for these storms. He transitioned the volunteer fire department to its current combination department during his tenure as chief. His leadership resulted in the current ISO rating of 5 which puts the Kure Beach Fire Department in the top 28% in North Carolina.

Chief Heglar retired effective November 30, 2017.

On February 1st, the Department held a Memorial in honor of Heglar at the new fire station that was dedicated to him last year; Heglar Station.

During the Memorial, Heglar's son, David Heglar, delivered a eulogy. The following is that eulogy:

Diane,  Jerry, Mike, Amy, Tim and our  family including my Dad’s 8 grandchildren would like to thank everyone for coming.  Our family has been truly blessed with the outpouring of sympathy from all the people who loved him and are honored that you came today to be with us to remember him.  Each of us have a picture of what my Dad was and all of them have some truth about the true man.  Many of you shared stories of him with me – since he left us 12 days ago and honestly throughout my life.  I would like to share a little of what I have learned from him and from you.

The first thing to say is that my Dad loved like he did everything else – with all his being.  It was not the soft, mushy love of words – but the love of a strong man – in deeds.  His most precious love was for his family – starting with Diane.  For some of those who knew him the longest – it was said that Diane changed him.  My perspective is that Diane completed him.  It had to be true love – to get my Dad to fix a sailboat or get on a paddleboard.  If you listened and looked closely when he  talked of her – you truly felt he loved her with his whole being.  For his sons – he was bigger than life and definitely of the older, tougher school of love.  We always knew he loved us – and he showed it every time we called for his help – but it wasn’t something he articulated.  His way was few words and big actions.  He was proud of both of us and from his friends I have heard his love for us.  I can say I have always known he loved my brother and I – and we will miss him more than we will ever be able to express.  He loved my sister Amy as well – and I know she saw through his hard exterior to his large heart.  And for all of his grandkids – he was proud of every one of you and loved you all as well.  I wish he would have had the chance to mellow into the senior Statesman Heglar phase that he was working toward before he left us – but I hope you all understand he loved each of you with all his heart.

And he loved his friends – all of them.  His love for them was tough as well – you really had to know him, and them to see through the hard language and tough talk to recognize the love that they shared.  I don’t know if he ever told any of them he loved them – but he always showed it.  I would hazard to say he fixed something, or loaned something or went with them to do something for every one of them.  And it most likely came with a bit of verbal tough love either to them or about them.  But make no mistake – he loved each of you, or he wouldn’t have left our home in my youth or Diane’s side in his more recent years to help however he was called on – no matter the time, the weather or the problem.

And finally he loved our community and most especially the people who serve it – the Fire Fighters, the Police Officers, the Public Works personnel, the volunteers and the town employees.  Each of them have one or more Harold stories that I am sure also started with some tough love – but I hope they could see what was behind the hard shell.  I know that he had the highest respect for those who serve – and loved each of you. 

For the fire fighters in general but most especially for the Men and Women of the Kure Beach Fire Department – you were his family and are the largest part of his legacy.  When he joined the department in 1973 the average age was 56 years old,  he was 26.  In three years he had recruited basically all his hunting and fishing friends, and his brother Jerry to get a core of young men that drove the department.  They raised money, had fun, fought fires, put in wells, partied hard and built the previous station through their efforts that protected the town until this station was opened.  He continued to find young men and women throughout his 42 years as Fire Chief, growing them to the professional team that is here today.  And he loved you as much as he loved his friends and family – and I have heard his tough love to many of you – I hope you saw through it, but if you didn’t let me tell you he praised each of you and always said how lucky Kure Beach is to have every single one of you.

My Dad was also a hero.  I know that word is bandied about these days and somehow seems diminished.  For my Dad – I am talking about the hero of old – the one who risks all and prevails.  The one that other men and women look to for example, for leadership, for resolve.  In his years of service he has saved people from fire, from the ocean waves near shore and from the sea.  I can truthfully say I have been fearful for him – both in his adventures and in response to a crisis.  But I have never seen him flinch at sea or during a hurricane or in a fire.  When I think of courage – I can honestly say that he has always been the first person to come to my mind.  I have been fortunate to have served with amazingly brave and talented people in dangerous situations -  on submarines at sea and deployed in conflicts to the middle east  – but if I was picking for a team to be by my side in danger, be it a small boat in a storm, a raging fire or the Zombie Apocalpse – whatever it danger it would be – I would pick Harold Heglar first.  And I believe that I am not alone in that – he was one of the bravest, most creative, most competitive and most talented men I have ever known.  Once he took up a challenge – he was onboard until the end – and as some young tennis players 30 years younger than him would tell you – he always brought his all to every challenge.  And he has translated that to the team he has left behind.  I am proud to be a member of the team whose house we stand in to remember my father.  They are brave.  They are trained.  I have seen many of them go into the sea after a drowning person.  I have watched them at fires – both in our town and in Carolina Beach.  I have the utmost faith they will continue the tradition that this department has of bravery and service, a tradition personified in my father.

The majority of us here today have multiple memories of him helping us or someone close to us.  His example of service and friendship stands out as a shining light on how to be a man.  My Dad has always been just a little bit bigger than life.  When I was young, I thought it was what everyone’s Dad was like.  As I grew up – and went out into the world and learned about men I began to realize how lucky I was to have him as my father, and how lucky I was to be a Heglar.  Even now, as a father myself – when I am with people not from here and we talk of our families – people don’t always believe some of the things I say about my dad.  Going into the ocean after alligators, or in his late 50’s jumping into a cold March Ocean to pull out drowning people, or becoming the Legend by driving a small boat through a storm with the inlet lit up by friends cars so he could find his way in – there are 1000’s of stories of just how larger than life he was. I think for me – just how impressive he was, was highlighted again during Hurricane Florence in 2018.  Dad had had surgery just a few weeks before Hurricane Florence hit and to be honest was struggling to recover.  It was the worst I had seen him in my life and our family could tell it was getting him down.  As the Emergency Manager with very professional but never tested new Department Heads I was feeling a bit concerned for our response and spent some time before the storm with him.  He was confident in our teams and told me we were good to go.  Following the storm – as with all Hurricanes there were some challenges – but the biggest issue that became a problem was the restoration of electrical power.  For those that do not know – my Dad had always had a special relationship with the power company – knowing many of the old timers and utilizing both his personal network and electrical knowledge to ensure that Kure Beach somehow always got power restored faster than anyone around us. 

After being a bit unsuccessful to get the same thing to happen – I went to see him to talk about it.  With a bit of tough love and some verbal corrections on how it should be done – he told Diane to get him a driver and got out of the bed to fix the problem.  When he showed up at the fire house – you could almost feel the teams tension melt away.  We had been at it for 48 hours and people were tired and a bit frazzled but seeing him hanging out the window bought a smile to everyone as he drove around with Mike King looking at the power lines.  He called out to his network and I don’t honestly know how much it sped things up – but it seemed like within hours power was being turned on.  That is how impactful he has always been.  Between his father, him, his brother and our families – there are over 145 years of service in the Kure Beach Fire Department and service in every hurricane to hit Kure Beach since the town’s founding, as well as untold hours fixing water, sewer, electrical and any other problem in the town or surrounding community. This does not even include the surrogate sons and daughters that while not immediate family are as much a part of his legacy as we are.  Jerry, Mike and I have been lucky enough to go out in the rain or cold and serve someone in need – as have many of the people in this audience.  While this started with his father, Dub Heglar – I would say that my Dad definitely ramped up the concept of service throughout his life.

In closing – a legacy of love, courage and service.  Of these three – I know Dad, just like my Grandfather believed the greatest is love.  He never told me his favorite verse of the bible – to be honest I would say that he may not have had one.  I do know he believed in God – because we talked about it in the past few weeks.  And I believe that he is beside Grandma and Grandpa in heaven – adding an awesome fire fighter and seaman to heavens great cook and amazing gardner.  But in thinking about what verse personifies him to me, just like his father – the same verse applies.  They definitely served their friends in much different
ways but both gave their lives and their hearts to us all. In the King James version “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Dedicating your life to service and love – and being the example to your family, friends and community of courage so that you create service all around you is certainly giving your life to your friends.

We are a close circle of family and friends honoring his memory, mourning his passing and celebrating his life and impact.  We all will miss him.  But hopefully – we all rejoice in his life.

The family thanks you for coming and encourage you to celebrate the fact that Dad is exactly where he belongs – hunting, fishing and making new stories in heaven with Grandma and Grandpa.


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