James Edward Heath

From his obituary:

"The death of James E. Heath, Syracuse's commissioner of parks and recreation since 1966, is a terrible tragedy, not only to his family but also to the city administration and to thousands of residents of the city. Extremely sensitive to the importance of public recreation in urban living, Jim Heath had won the respect and admiration of all families whose children benefitted from the facilities he provided in the parks and in the playgrounds and wherever his mobile units could park in crowded neighborhoods. He was a progressive administrator who had original ideas and who knew how to implement them. There is not a phase of the city parks and recreation program which was not improved under his direction. Syracuse was most fortunate in having had such a man in his critical post at such a time. It will be most difficult to find a replacement who would combine the knowledge and the personal inspiration that Jim Heath had."

The mayor of Syracuse NY said, "I know I speak for all of us when I say the loss of Jim Heath is probably the most severe the city had ever suffered."

Mr. Heath had experienced other problems on airplanes. In March 1967, he had flown to Mexico to pick up an elephant for the Burnet Park Zoo. The plane he was on developed engine trouble over the Gulf of Mexico. The flames were contained, and the plane made a safe emergency landing, but there were some tense moments, to be sure.

He was the former St. Louis parks and recreation commissioner, and was the brother of passenger Harlin Heath. He had been traveling with his brother to Hamilton, OH, to give a presentation for a recreation- and parks-related proposal. Ending earlier than expected, they had boarded flight 853. It was reported they had had to run to catch the plane as it departed the gate in Cincinnati.

Mr. Heath had been scheduled to return to Syracuse the day before the crash, but had called at 1:30 pm on Sept. 9, and extended his trip an extra day to accompany his brother back to St. Louis. At 2:15, he also called a friend in the Mayor's office to advise him of the change in plans.

A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, with a Master's degree in public administration from St. Louis University, Heath was also former president of the Missouri Park and Recreation Association.

He had telephoned his wife, Doris, in Syracuse 10 minutes before the flight left, to inform her of his change in plans.

He also left behind four children: Thomas (17), Timothy (14), Jeffrey (13), and James (11).

There is a small memorial park for Mr. Heath in Syracuse, which was dedicated in his honor.  It stands at the corner of Conifer Dr. and South Salina (Route 11).

Back to Passenger List

Back to Allegheny Crash Main Page