While making my rounds at area flea markets, I came across a booth filled with books and stopped to look. I was delighted, but also surprised, to find many of the books were about printing. I immediately bought all materials related to that particular art. For her part, the vendor was both startled and thrilled at the realization the books were going home with someone who enjoys the history of printing.
As we spoke, the vendor disclosed that the books belonged to her late husband, Edward "Ned" F. Heite (1939-2005). He was an archaeologist, historian, and proud Delaware native. As M. Heite was downsizing, she suggested I return later for more of his books.
True to her word, she brought books, but M. Heite also gave me a gift--one which can never be repaid. During his lifetime, Ned printed ephemera which voiced his opinions and passions. M. gave some of this print-work to me, along with permissions to share them on Passed Time and specifically, In Their Own Words. To state "I am touched," is probably one of the biggest understatements of the year.
Upon preparing these materials for Passed Time, I was told by others that Heite loved controversy. He was also described as a bit of a "curmudgeon," and one whose distinctive personality was coupled with a sharp intelligence. Heite's own print-work, especially the pamphlet, "Some Thoughts and Reflections on the Restoration of the State House," affords readers an insider's perspective of that intellect.*
The Dover Post, one of Dover's iconic newspapers, is allowing Passed Time to share Heite's obituary (see below). His printed materials, along with the obituary, provide a balanced look into one of Delaware's colorful figures. His love of archaeology, printing, history, and Delaware are reflected in the obituary by those who knew him and Heite's own voice is memorialized by his print-work.
Without M.'s loyalty to her late husband's memory and her willingness to share a part of their lives, some of his contributions might have been lost to time. As it is, I hope you enjoy the Heite's gifts during this holiday season.**
Ned Heite Remembered for Historical Contributions
By Jeff Brown and Joanna Wilson, Staff Writer and Lifestyles Editor, Dover Post, Delaware, 04/20/05
Edward F. "Ned" Heite was not a man who courted the limelight, but neither was he one to avoid controversy when it touched upon one of his many passions - he'd speak his mind and leave no doubt as to which side he was on.
The Dover native and longtime Camden resident passed away quietly April 17 at the age of 66 after an extended illness, leaving behind firm last wishes that there be no ceremony and only a few spare lines on the obituary page to memorialize him. But despite those instructions, those who knew him well could not let him go without at least a few words.
"Ned never wanted the attention, and yet he contributed and he gave to everybody," said Dan Griffith, the recently retired director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
"He was such a unique guy, we just can't let him go without some recognition," said new state Archivist Russ McCabe of the man who, when serving as chief of the state archives, hired him in 1978.
Heite had deep roots in Delaware and once hinted his family was descended from the remnants of Blackbeard's pirate crew who had settled in old Kent County. The son of the late Harry and Catherine Heite, he grew up on State Street in Dover, graduated from Dover High School and earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in history from the University of Richmond.
During a career that stretched over more than four decades, Heite was a writer, newspaper editor and college instructor as well as one of the state's most recognized archaeologists and experts on Delaware's early history. In the 1970s, he served as the state's first historic preservation officer, overseeing some of Delaware's first entries onto the National Register of Historic Places, and succeeded the legendary Dr. Leon deValinger as state archivist.
He left state employment in 1980, forming his own archaeological consulting firm, which he based in Camden. Despite the illness that was slowly sapping his strength, Heite remained active in his chosen field, attending a regional archaeological conference only weeks before his death.
Heite was an imposing figure, a mustachioed bear of a man in thick glasses topped by a great shock of black hair. No matter where he was, he always fit the popular image of the archaeologist, from his ancient Land Rover -- memorialized in a gold earring he sometimes wore -- to his worn khakis and sturdy sandals.
"He was never known for his sartorial splendor. He never got dressed up, and when he did, even if it was a suit, it was always rumpled," McCabe said.
In Heite's case, clothes did not make the historian, however.
"With Ned, what you saw was what you got. He was never one to put on airs or sit in judgment. He was very open-minded," McCabe said.
"He made a tremendous contribution to archaeology in Delaware," Griffith said, recalling his friend and colleague of 30 years. "I think the depth of his knowledge of the documentary records at the State Archives and the details he knew of colonial life in Delaware are unrivalled."
As state archivist, Heite had a style all his own, McCabe recalled - and it wasn't all business.
"He enjoyed a good laugh, though his sense of humor could be a bit abstract at times," McCabe said, recalling that when the Skylab space station fell from orbit in 1979, Heite came to work wearing a helmet emblazoned with Skylab emblems - "something you could never imagine Leon deValinger doing. But he was cut from different cloth than Leon."
Heite also became involved in the Camden community. In addition to serving on the Camden Town Council in 1983 and 1984 and on the Planning Commission from 1986 until 1992, he'd turn up at council meetings to express his strongly held opinions, reserving his most thunderous righteous indignation for developments that threatened archaeological sites.
"Anybody that's ever met the guy couldn't forget him. He had such an eclectic interest in everything," McCabe said, recalling Heite's flair for the dramatic as well as his penchant for singing 18th century sailors' drinking songs. "He had this encyclopedic knowledge about the strangest things, particularly any element of Delaware history. He had some information about just about anything you asked him."
His personal memories as well as his historical knowledge made him a man to call for information. Most recently, he shared tales of Kitts Hummock Beach in a 2003 story for the Dover Post, recalling the details of his boyhood summers as well as the background of the sleepy bayside community.
He dismissed the theory that the beach was named for pirate Capt. Kidd with typical authority: "Nonsense!" he boomed. As for the Hummock part - "It's spelled 'hummock' but it's pronounced 'hammock,'" he corrected.
A prolific writer, Heite either wrote or co-authored, some with ex-spouse Dr. Louise Heite, more than 200 articles and reports on subjects ranging from excavations at a 19th century Lebanon cannery to a treatise on the types of beer available in Iceland. Most recently, he did groundbreaking research into Delaware's Native American history, which McCabe said he hopes might be published as part of Heite's legacy.
"He was a very colorful writer," McCabe added - even in the memos he sent to archives staff. "And he loved digging for details."
McCabe recalls Heite visited the Archives just a week and a half ago to do research and congratulate him on his promotion. "I was particularly touched by the fact that he came," said McCabe, who knew his health to be failing.
On March 31, his last day of work at the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Griffith said he visited his old friend for a little celebration and a chat.
"We just sat there and talked about archaeology," he said. "I remember giving and getting a hug from him. I'm really glad I did that." www.doverpost.com/PostArchives/04-20-05/pages/newsned.html***
*Ned's printing will be shown in two parts, due to size. See "The Heite Family Gift (Part 2)"
**Reprinted with permission of M. Heite.
***Reprinted with permission of the Dover Post.
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