MICHAEL HEENAN: Popular backbone of navy vets association passes away

MICHAEL HEENAN: Popular backbone of navy vets association passes away

CORNWALL, Ontario – Not unlike the keel of a ship, Michael Heenan was the backbone of the Cornwall and District Navy Veterans Association, helping to rescue that agency from financial ruin decades ago.

The former football lineman that played for the Cornwall Charges/Mustangs junior team in the 1960s, was also a force on the local music scene as a drummer for rock bands of many stripes. He passed away Thursday following a short battle with cancer at the age of 69.

Heenan worked for years at Domtar in Cornwall, but music, football and his beloved navy club were areas where he will be remembered.

“The navy club wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for Mike and all his hard work,” said a grief-stricken Diane Riley, president of the club, who tearfully recounted her time with Heenan. “I’m kind of emotional. He’s been the driving force behind the navy club.”

Heenan’s leadership as a longtime president of the club and manager of its Sixth Street building helped to bring it back from the edge of financial peril decades ago.

He stayed on as president of the club until 2014, and only retired this spring from his duties as manager.

“He was still very active with the club,” said Riley. “He still did our newsletter. And he was a shoulder for me to lean on.”

Heenan also dabbled in social media, regularly updating a popular Facebook page with snippets of Cornwall history, including photographs.

Just this year Heenan was a big part of a Cornwall Chargers/Mustangs football reunion held, of course, at the navy club.

The Cornwall Chargers/Mustangs were a junior farm team of the Ottawa Rough Riders, that existed for three seasons leading up to 1968, playing in the Canadian Inter-Provincial Junior Football League. Former Cornwall mayor Ed Lumley was coach of the club (known as the Chargers in 1966, and the Mustangs in subsequent seasons).

His musical exploits included decades as a drummer and singer. Heenan’s son Kelly recalls a Christmas when he was struggling to find a gift for his father.

“There was a 45 that one of my dad’s bands had released,” recalled Kelly. The song was ‘Slipper Lily.’

“How many kids can say their dad released a record?” said Kelly, who hit upon re-recording the song and presenting it to Michael as a gift. “I was in a band, and we decided to record the song. We kind of modernized it.”

Heenan is also survived by his wife Linda, and children Robin Heenan-Mikkelsen, Casey and Lindsay.

Plans are being completed to hold a navy club event to celebrate Heenan’s life. Details have not yet been formalized.

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