ROBERT LEE "BUDDY" VAN DER HEYDEN entered into eternal rest on Good Friday, April 6th, 2012. He was born in Stamford Connecticut on July 22, 1919 the son of Robert Lee van der Heyden and Theresa Fitzpatrick van der HEYDEN. In 1917 his father became one of Stamford's first Motor Cycle Policemen, when he was issued a 1917 Indian Motor Cycle. Buddy attended St. John's Parochial School in Stamford and in 1937 graduated from St. Basil's Ukrainian Catholic Seminary with distinction in academics and athletics. Throughout his life he relied on and drew inspiration, guidance and strength from his faith. Buddy's entire life was spent in the sports arena where he excelled as an athlete in five fields; as a Sports Official, Umpire, Sports Writer, Promoter and Sports Announcer on Stamford's radio station WSTC, where for more than three decades, he was renowned as the Voice of Local Sports. During the early 1950's, Stamford's youth baseball programs, were known, recognized and respected throughout the country. Buddy traveled with the teams of that era and brought the excitement and action back to the local area over WSTC. It was truly an exciting period for Stamford's Little League program. Stamford put Little League Baseball "on the map." On his evening sports show, he had the privilege of interviewing both local and national sports personalities. For pro bono, Buddy served as Master of Ceremonies for many local events. His first participation in sports was with various Bull's Head neighborhood teams in Stamford. While at St. Basil's, he Captained the baseball and basketball teams under Coach Mike Nagurney. As a community league football star, he was a hard hitting running back and was one of the best kickers ever to boot the "pigskin" in the well-knit local circuit. His community play also carried into ice hockey with outdoor play at Hoth's Pond in Stamford. Prior to entering World War Two as a Marine, Buddy played football for the Stamford Golden Bears, a professional eleven operated by his father-in-law Phil Livolsi. Although a father, Buddy could not sit along the sideline when World War Two broke out. He volunteered for the Marines and put in sixteen months overseas out of his three years as an infantryman. He went through the Solomon Islands Campaign and was wounded on Guadalcanal and shot in his back in a skermish on Bougainville for which he received his second Purple Heart. His division received three campaign stars for action with a landing force. Upon returning to the states, he spent the remainder of his time in the Marines teaching small arms weaponry and hand to hand combat. After the war, Buddy was invited by the New York Football Giants to attend their training camp at Bear Mountain, NY. He signed a contract with them for $175.00 per league game. He was sent to their farm team affiliate, the Jersey City Giants. Returning to Stamford, he performed capably with Johnny Scalzi's All Stamfords in 1947. Further activity on the ice saw Buddy established as a member of the Stamford Club in the Fairfield County Hockey League at Norwalk's Crystal Arena. In baseball, he excelled as a catcher in the Twilight League and finished his career as a first "Sacker" for the Saints of the Independent League. After Buddy hung up his spikes, he pursued his love of golf and established himself as a fierce competitor on the links. Over the years, he was invited to play in dozens of Pro-Am golf tournaments where he was paired with notable golf professionals of that time. His love of the outdoors extended to laboring daily in his yard including both flower and vegetable gardening. Buddy was one of the earlier employees of the Perkin Elmer Corporation when their plant was located on Hope Street in Stamford at the current site of United House Wrecking. He was further employed by Remington Rand (portable typewriter division), Andy Robustelli (National Professional Athletes) and retired from United States Tobacco Company. Buddy is survived by his loving wife of seventy one years, Louise. His children, Robert, William, Pamela, Theresa, Michael Dante and his caregiver, trusted confidant and devoted son, Brian. Eleven grandchildren and several great grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by grandson, Derek Botticelli. He will be dearly missed by his loving family and many, many friends. A Mass of Christian Burial Will be held on Thursday April 12, 2012 at 10:00 AM St Aloysius Church, Cherry Street, New Canaan with Interment to follow in Lakeview Cemetery, with full military honors. The Hoyt Funeral Home in New Canaan is in charge of arrangements. Please visit www.hoytfuneralhome.com for online condolences. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to: Wounded Warrior Project. To donate, goto: www.woundedwarriorproject.org
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Published in StamfordAdvocate on Apr. 10, 2012