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Harry Reuben "Bud" Heslet

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Harry Reuben "Bud" HESLET February 27, 1920 ~ April 21, 2012 Born in Topeka, Kansas on February 27th, 1920, Harry "Bud" Heslet was the second of five children born to Reuben and Elsie Heslet. He attended Seaman High School in Topeka where he played football, basketball and baseball. In 1938 he was signed by the New York Yankees while still a junior in high school. After graduating high school in 1939, he started a fourteen-year professional baseball career in 1940. Like so many players of his day, his baseball career was voluntarily interrupted for three years when he enlisted in the Navy to serve in World War II. Heslet would lead the league in home runs in six of those fourteen years, culminating with his last and most prolific year in 1956 with the Visalia Cubs of the California League. He was one of the first five players to be inducted into the Visalia, California League, Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 along with the likes of Kirby Puckett and Vada Pinson. His performance in 1956 is best described in the words on his Hall of Fame monumentit states: In 1956, "Harry "Bud" Heslet posted the greatest offensive season in California League history with Visalia, setting league records with 51 Home Runs and 172 Runs Batted In. He also batted .334. His records have not been not been challenged since." The fact that Heslet retired from baseball after that incredible season was the subject of a feature article published by MLB.com in May of 2008. When asked by the writer why he "simply retired and walked away from the game never to look back," Heslet replied, "The main reason was I had a boy and I wanted to get him settled. The only way to do that was to give up baseball, stay home and be a dad." The article went on to say, "Several teams wanted him to manage, but he turned them all down." Heslet met Lucille, his wife of 49 years; in Los Angeles while serving in the Navy in 1944they were married that same year. As a ball player's family, the Heslets had lived all over the US and Canada, so they were happy to settle down in Visalia where Bud spent nineteen years with the Fire Department. A heart condition required him to retire from being a fireman, so he became a supervisor for the Training Centers for the Handicapped where he worked until he retired for good in 1990. In 1991, the Heslets moved to Freeland, Washington on Whidbey Island to be close to their son's family that lived outside Seattle. Lucille passed away in 1993, just three months after the birth of their first grandchild, Christine. As a widower, when not visiting with family, Heslet spent his time by painting or with friends at the Bay View Senior Center and the Senior Center Fun Band. The Langley CMA Church, where he sang in the choir, was also an important part of his life. Heslet was always a big, physically imposing figure, but he was also a very gentle soul who had a contagious smile, loved to make people laugh and was well liked by everyone who knew him. He spent his last days surrounded by his family, at peace with his faith in the next life and ready, as he would say, "to meet his Maker". He went to reside in his new home in Heaven on the morning of April 21st, 2012 at the age of 92. Heslet is survived by his son Joseph, his daughter-in-law Linda and his two beloved grandchildren Christine and Michael. He is survived also by his brother Galen of Hemet, California and a host of nieces, nephews and extended family. Services are under the direction of Visser Funeral Home, Langley, WA.
Published in The Seattle Times on Apr. 29, 2012
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