The name Ed Heins remains synonymous with education, hard work
You might not know the name, but hopefully you remember the man. A co-worker and I used to call him “the Tall Man.” Not the most creative nickname we’ve ever come up with. Ed Heins stood about 6-5 or 6-6,
maybe taller. He worked in our industry for 55 years, had snow-white hair (seemingly forever), and had the raspiest voice you’ll ever hear.
Since I first met Ed in the latter ’80s, it seemed I was almost playing a “shadow” game with him. You know,
when your dad’s walking along the sidewalk on a sunny day, casting a shadow. Then you kind of put yourself in the shadow, and it continues to look like there’s still just one shadow. (Just me?) Anyway, Ed cast a huge shadow in oh so many ways.
When I first met Ed, he was teaching at the J-School, and I was just entering as a student. He was a guest lecturer in several of my classes. Yes, I didn’t pay attention.
Ed became the general manager at the Columbia Missourian. At the same time, I started doing ad layout for the
Missourian. I didn’t interact with Ed then, but we each knew who the other was — spent two
years “knowing” each other.
After graduation, I joined the Suburban Journals in the classified department. Guess who had just become the editorial director days before I started. Yep — Ed. I became a manager at the Journals and started to at least “speak” to Ed. Not much though. At the time, unfortunately, we were going through a major, nonlocal buyout and things were pretty tense. Yet, we chatted here and there.
Seven days before Christmas in 1991, the corporate guys decided to give the axe to half the managers. (I still have Jerry Berger’s column from the Post-Dispatch, “Pink Slips for the Holidays”). Anyway, Ed and I simultaneously got the boot.
A few months later, I showed up at The St. Louis American. But wait! No Ed Heins! Well, oddly enough, we hired Ed as a consultant about four months or so later. What the heck?Here’s the shadow — the Tall Man — again.Since we were a relatively small company, with about 18 employees at the time, it was inevitable that I would work more closely with Ed than I ever had. I was only about 26 at the time, so, to be honest, I still thought of Ed as the old teacher. I would politely listen to him and his raspy voice, but in the back of my immature mind I was thinking “yeah, yeah, yeah.”I’m not sure if it was because I just had my first child or what, but suddenly, I started actually listening to Ed. He hadn’t been teaching students in the last few years, but suddenly he again had a student in me.As a consultant, although Ed was with us only a few years, he did a lot for the St. Louis American. In fact, wellover a decade later we still have several items in place purely because of Ed Heins. Publisher Donald Suggsand I continue to be grateful to Ed. In short, although he recently passed (May 4), Ed Heins’ wisdom continues to help us save costs and create revenue to this day.WHY? Because he passed his knowledge along to us. He could have taken/kept all the accolades to himself, about cost savings and the like, but he didn’t. He sat me down and taught me. Even though he was a consultant, Ed was the first one in the office every day. He’d get the coffee going, and then a little later I’d show up, and he’d have a seat in my office. At the time knew absolutely nothing about many aspects of the industry, including the whole “printing” aspect. Because of Ed, I now feel I do. He sat me down and taught me, like educators are supposed to do.
Ed started a monthly special section for us called “Health Matters.” In typical Ed Heins style, not only did he start it, he wrote all the copy, edited it, sold all the ads for the section, and oversaw the layout. He even drove the boards to the printer (before the digital age, folks).
Ed did it all himself. “Health Matters” has become “Your Health Matters,” and it now runs twice per month, continues to earn revenue, and has been named Best Regularly Scheduled Section several times in recent years in various newspaper contests.
In the Columbia Missourian’s obit about Ed, Abby Rogers quoted former managing editor George Kennedy as
saying, “Ed should be remembered as a creative, hard-working executive, who created this publication (a weekly
publication) that really made it possible for the Missourian to continue to exist.”
Not surprising, if you know Ed. If there’s one other term to describe Ed besides “teacher,” it’s “hard-working.”
On a very, very personal note: when the January issue of this magazine came out, introducing yours truly as the 2010 MPA president, take a guess at the first call I received. It was Ed. I have to tell you how great it was then, and it means even more now. He took the time to call me. Teacher calling student.
I felt like I just won the Super Bowl, and my former coach was calling me with congrats. Usually I’m quite the
jokester, but this time I’m glad I made the right move. I told Ed that there’s no way, no way I’d be in the position I’m in at the American or MPA, or have the knowledge I have, without him. It’s true.
Guess it’s time to cast my own shadow, while at the same time mentoring others and sharing what Ed taught me.
Thanks, Ed. Thanks for giving me the opportunity. Thanks for teaching me. Thanks for being my shadow. Thanks for everything, Tall Man.