Amherst Magazine

Heath Wakelee '38

Deceased May 23, 2008
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Heath Wakelee

Heath went to Amherst because his father did, and he gloried in the legacy. And as he aged, he viewed himself as a lucky man with most days good ones.

“The love of Amherst was bred into me by my father, Louis ’11, from the time I was able to comprehend,” Heath wrote in his 50th Reunion memoir. “The four years at Amherst were tremendously rewarding for me, opening many doors for life enrichment, and sharpening my thinking ...

“I have had extremely good fortune in career moves, marriage, children, health, and opportunities to contribute to my communities.”

An economics major and member of Chi Psi fraternity, Heath went on to a career in employee and labor relations with such firms as Ampex, Litton Industries, McLean, Sears Roebuck and General Cable in New York, the midwest, the south and, ultimately, in California, where he retired.   He died May 23, 2008, three years after his wife, Elizabeth (Betty), a Wellesley graduate and cousin of his classmate, Renslow Sherer ’38 (d. 2002.)

A daughter, Wendy Wakelee Welch, said that after Betty died Heath moved into the skilled nursing facility of the retirement community in Carmichael, CA, where both had lived for more than ten years.  His death at ninety-two, she said, came from multiple complications of prostate cancer, kidney failure, and a stroke.  The family planned a celebration of both their lives in Sacramento late in September.

Before and after retirement, Heath and Betty were great travelers and particularly enjoyed wildlife expeditions.  He mentioned visiting fifty-five countries besides wide-ranging trips in the United States.

In a 2002 Class note, Heath wrote that “by delightful coincidence, George and Bette Shay were on the same holiday cruise of the Mexican Riviera as Betty and I.”  Classmate Shay died in 2007.

In their retirement community, Heath said they had “lots of contemporary friends,” and they kept busy with many activities. His included moderating weekly discussions of world affairs.  

Besides daughter Wendy, survivors included another daughter, Elizabeth Wakelee Kanago; two sons, Richard and Bruce; five grandchildren, Sarah Welch Rodgers, Michael D. Welch, Adam Wakelee Welch, Dr. Heather Wakelee and Hillary Wakelee; and six great-grandchildren. Two nephews are Amherst alums, Jeffrey T. Smith ’75 and Rory B. Smith ’83.

George Bria ’38

 

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