Roger Heller

My good friend of 70 years, Roger Kenneth Heller, born February 17, 1922 in Beach, North Dakota, passed away November 8, 2010 in Ojai, CA. The family settled on Thomas Street (now Thomas Avenue) in Oakland when he was an elementary school student. He graduated from Oakland Tech in June 1940. At the same time I had returned to the Bay Area and graduated from University High School. We met on the Key System Line beginning our next phase of life at the newly consolidated campus of the San Francisco Junior College.

During his high school and college years he and nearby friends who were also Sacramento Northern Railroad Buffs built their own layouts featuring the electric rail system, and began to photograph all the equipment wherever they could at every chance, whenever they could. I later dubbed these happy souls, The Thomas Street Trackers¬Ě. They were Roger Heller, William T. Larkins, Stan Espeseth, Howard Byers, and Gordon Laughland. Each one in their own right became an expert on the Sacramento Northern RR, and kept an important resource of photographs, slides, books and models. World War II interrupted our schooling and Roger and I were drafted from SFJC into the U.S. Army in January 1943. Roger wound up in the South Pacific, and I found myself in Europe.

Returning from the war in 1946, he returned to SFJC, and then transferred on to the University of California at Berkeley where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in History and continued his studies towards a Ph.D. He went on into teaching with assignments at UC Davis, College of San Mateo, Department Chairman for Social Studies at San Carlos High School, and three years as a Master Teacher and Guest Lecturer in the Intern Program at Stanford. In l965 he joined the faculty of San Jose State University where he taught History and Social Science until his retirement in 1987. He was voted favorite professor¬Ě by the SJSU student body for several years. If you ever came in contact with Roger Heller you can understand why. Roger also compounded his distinguished teaching career by joining the Army Reserves, and equally working his way up to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in a secondary distinguished career until his military retirement in 1982.

There will never be another Roger K. Heller.

Contributed by Les Krames

©2011 East Bay Hills Project | All rights reserved | The photos contained on this site are not the property of EBHP | All Copyrights are those of the owners - Do Not Reproduce