George Heath, a former Firestone trustee and beloved member of the Carbon Valley community, died Monday at the age of 80 due to complications from a heart attack that occurred last year.
Born in Roseville, California, he held a doctorate in ministry from the Luther Rice Seminary in Florida and was a pastor for congregations in the Dallas area. He was involved in community service there — a lifelong passion of his — spending much of his time directing the social work program for the Dallas Baptist Association and the college student work program.
He was also the first chaplain of the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, serving from 1975 to 1976, and served as a member of the Pleasant Grove, Texas, Chamber of Commerce, bringing a hospital to that area.
In 1987, George Heath and his wife Betty, who writes a weekly column for the Times-Call, moved to the Front Range. And after building a house in Firestone in 1998, the two entwined themselves into the Carbon Valley community.
“He was just such a loveable force in the town,” said Firestone Mayor Bobbi Sindelar. “Him and Betty were Santa Claus every year in our community celebration, and it was just adorable.
“He was always just ready to kick in his time and energy.”
For some, he was the person that made Carbon Valley feel like a hometown. Abby Rennor, who owns a real estate agency in Firestone, moved to town in 2014. As soon as she opened up shop, George Heath was one of the first people to show up.
“He was just super kind, and that’s how I got to know him, he came — I believe — for a ribbon cutting,” said Rennor. “That was the first time and then he always just consistently checked back in with me, and we began to form a little bit deeper of a relationship as a friendship.
“You know, I was just amazed how he could … know so many people and talk to so many people and be so caring for our community.”
Rennor added he was the “epitome” of someone who cared for the town and wanted it to grow and become more diverse.
Betty Heath said George was often called “Mr. Firestone,” but also took on the moniker of the “man who wears the fedora,” thanks to his trademark hat.
He was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Committee in 2011, and served two full terms on the Firestone board of trustees ending in April. And though he put his heart into his civic work, Betty Heath said he never let politics weigh him down.
“George never came home grouchy,” she said. “After returning home from meetings he would leave the politics outside and enjoy life inside. He always came through the door that leads from the garage into our house with a smile on his face. Our home has always been our refuge.”
On the board, Sindelar said George Heath was a joy to work with, and he was always motivated to get things done.
“He really was quite an advocate for historical Firestone, which people really liked,” she said.
Outside of politics, George Heath was a founding member of the Carbon Valley Help Center, a nonprofit dedicated to coordinating and providing help for locals in need, and worked with Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, on top of a long list of other contributions to the community.
He also had his share of extraordinary experiences, playing catcher for a minor league baseball team, traveling through the Middle East and spending time homeless on the streets of San Francisco as part of his doctoral thesis — an experience Betty Heath said enhanced his empathy for those down on their luck.
An eternal optimist, Betty Heath said he “always knew it was going to be better tomorrow.”
“I always thought George was not only called to the Christian ministry, he was a minister to all people, even when he became involved in the community politically,” she said. “He always ministered to their needs, whether it was physical, emotional, financial or whatever.
“He always put their needs first.”
During an April 22 work session, the Firestone board of trustees announced the McClure Avenue bridge connecting to Colorado Boulevard will now be named “Heath Bridge” in honor of Betty and George.
A plaque, along with a metal casting of his signature hat, will be placed at the northeast corner of McClure Avenue and Colorado Boulevard this spring. A bench will also be set up near the Firestone Trail.
George Heath is survived by his wife Betty Heath; his three children Georgia, James and Kimberly; four step children Greg, Deborah, Mark and Tim; 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
According to Betty Heath, no services are planned due to the coronavirus outbreak. George Heath’s family has asked that, instead of flowers, donations be sent to the Carbon Valley Chamber of Commerce’s George Heath Community Scholarship Fund. Those donations can be mailed to 8308 Colorado Blvd. #203 Firestone, CO, 80504.