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Heckathorn dies of injuries

From motorcycle-car crash


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Don Heckathorn celebrated his wedding day with his new wife Elizabeth Morgan earlier this year, on Jan. 26. He died Aug. 14, from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident Aug. 8.Ambulance chief Don Heckathorn, who had headed up the Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services since 2007, will be remembered at a memorial service Thursday, Aug. 22, at 2:30 p.m., at Jefferson County Middle School.

A longtime public servant, Heckathorn was critically injured in a motorcycle accident on Aug. 8, and died Aug. 14, at St. Charles Bend, where he had been hospitalized since the crash.

According to Oregon State Police reports, Heckathorn was northbound on U.S. Highway 97 on a 2012 Harley Davidson motorcycle, when an eastbound 1996 Cadillac, driven by Gerald Scott Green, 36, of Prineville, failed to stop at the stop sign on Dover Lane, and collided with his motorcycle.

Heckathorn, who was wearing a helmet, sustained life-threatening injuries, and was transported by Lifeflight to St. Charles Bend, where he remained until his death Wednesday. His injuries included a traumatic head injury and multiple broken bones. Green was not injured.

Long history in Madras

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Don Heckathorn became the chief of JCEMS in 2007.Born in Nampa, Idaho, Heckathorn moved to Madras with his family in 1962, when he was in seventh grade. In 1967, he graduated from Madras High School and went on to earn an automotive technology certificate from Central Oregon Community College. For the next decade, he worked at Warm Springs Forest Products and followed the family tradition of volunteering with the ambulance and fire department.

In 1980, Heckathorn went to work for Metro West Ambulance in Hillsboro, where he worked alongside his brother, George, and trained to become a paramedic. George Heckathorn returned to Madras in 1986, and became the ambulance chief in 1989. Don Heckathorn returned to Madras in 1987, and worked at Albina Asphalt and volunteered at JCEMS, until he was hired in 1990 as a full-time assistant chief.

In January 2007, four years after his brother was diagnosed with kidney and brain cancers and two months after his brother stepped down from the chief position, Don Heckathorn was named the new chief. George Heckathorn died in 2010.

In an interview in 2007, Heckathorn said that his favorite part of his job was, "Saving somebody's life."

Earlier this year, Heckathorn married Elizabeth "Liz" Morgan, who works as the Oregon Health Authority trauma and survey manager, and as the director of the Mt. Hood Community College EMS program, as well as volunteering for JCEMS.

Family members said that Heckathorn was resilient, loyal, and dedicated to his family and community.

"I will remember Dad as being a role model for me, and one of my best friends," said Marc Heckathorn, the captain at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. "There are few major events in my life or my children's lives that Dad wasn't there for."

Nearly every morning since September 1999, when Marc Heckathorn started working full time at the sheriff's office, he and his dad met for coffee, first at Jerry's, and later at Black Bear Diner. "Our time together talking is something I will miss, and a hole that I can't fill," he said.

Rex Heckathorn, who works at North Unit Irrigation District, was grateful that his dad taught him to camp, hunt and fish, and was in the process of teaching his grandchildren those activities as well.

He was also proud of his father's work, and glad to have had the opportunity to have worked alongside his father.

Liz Heckathorn said she wants people to remember her husband's commitment to serving others, and the way he made an impact on so many lives.

In their marriage, she said, he was her friend and "accomplice." She thought of him as her compass, and was looking forward to their life together.

Besides his wife and two sons, Heckathorn is survived by three sisters, Debbie Richardson, Peggy Baker and Karen Baker, and two brothers, Larry and Dale Heckathorn.

On Thursday, Mike Lepin, assistant chief, said that it will be business as usual for JCEMS for a while. There will be no special meeting of the board of directors.

"We don't want to do anything until we mourn our loss, collect ourselves and move on," said Lepin, who was appointed acting chief Aug. 12, when the JCEMS Board of Directors held their regular meeting, and asked Lepin to run the operation until they have more information.

Part-time and volunteer staff have pulled together to cover all shifts. "We're functioning," said Lepin, who had noted earlier that, "We take care of our own."

"Everybody here is still waiting to wake up," he said. "The reality of what's happened hasn't set in yet."

Prior to the memorial service for Heckathorn, emergency medical service, law enforcement and fire department personnel, in addition to motorcyclists, will gather at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, beginning at noon.

The procession will leave the fairgrounds at 2 p.m., and head north on Highway 361, which turns east into D Street, turn north on Fifth Street, and east on B Street to Jefferson County Middle School for the service.




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  • 27 Nov 2014

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  • 28 Nov 2014

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