Garson “Gar” Heller — a longtime town elected official and volunteer who with his wife, RTM moderator Velma Heller served Westport in many ways, for many years — died yesterday.
A 40-year survivor of multiple bypass surgery, he experienced serious health issues shortly before his death. He was 85 years old.
His family calls him “generous and kind, sometimes to a fault, with a dry wit and a keen mind.”
Born in Manhattan to Elsie (Lakoff) and Garson F. Heller on December 11, 1935, Garson was the eldest of 4 children. The family moved to Scarsdale when he was 2. He excelled in the classroom and on the athletic field. He also enjoyed many adventures with his boyhood friends and siblings, including riding his bicycle into New York City for a surprise visit to his grandmother when he was 11.
He graduated from Yale in 1957 with a degree in chemical engineering. He competed in intramural sports, then later corporate and local softball leagues. He played tennis into his 70s,until health issues forced him to put down his racquet.
Gar started his long and varied career at Mobil Oil. With a talent for math, logic and complex problem solving, in 1969 he moved to a technology consulting firm, Data Dimensions, where he designed content automation and workflow systems for United Press International and other large organizations.
In 1982 he joined Securities Industry Automation Corporation, which supported the back-end trading and processing activities for the New York and American Stock Exchanges. He played a key role in the design and procurement of systems architecture for SIAC’s facilities at MetroTech in Brooklyn, and was the senior director for computer acquisitions until his retirement in 2002.
He loved all professional sports, but especially the Yankees and Steelers. He was also a competitive bridge player, strategizing tricks on Metro-North and playing with the same group of commuters for more than 20 years.
After retirement he continued to play in various bridge leagues and, since the early days of the pandemic, online. He was a Bronze Life Master bridge player, based on numerous competitions.
Garson read each section of the New York Times and many other publications, and completed the Sudoku and KenKen puzzles each day in record time. As passionate as he was about monitoring current affairs in the US and around the world, he loved Westport, the town that he and Velma moved to in 1964, with 2 little boys.
He was first elected to the Representative Town Meeting in 1969, and served for 14 years. In 1983 he was appointed to the Board of Assessment Appeals, and later elected to a seat on that board which he held for 38 years.
He also volunteered as a poll worker for local and state elections, often staying until the last vote was counted. He was honored by the Republican Town Committee in 2011 for his many years of outstanding service to the community, which continued until his death.
Above all else, Gar was a man of the highest morals who approached everything he did with integrity, candor and humor. As the longest serving member of the Board of Assessment Appeals he strove to treat each appellant fairly, and to serve both the town and other taxpayers equitably.
He was predeceased by his brother Andrew. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Velma Heller; sons Grant (Joanne) of Westport and Bradenton, Florida, David (Wendy) of Simsbury; daughter Julie of Brooklyn Heights; grandchildren Bonnie Steinman (Zachary), Katie, Grant Jr., Lisa, Nicole and William Heller, and great-grandchildren Jacob and Mia. He is also survived by brother Richard and sister-in-law Rosemary; sister Ronnie; sister-in-law Rita, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
The family will observe a private memorial.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Garson’s memory to the American Heart Association, in gratitude for the advances in cardiac care and interventional technologies that enriched Garson’s quality of life and extended his years of impact on all who knew and loved him.