Obituary of Robert Douglass Heilman
Robert Heilman 1948-2024
Bob Heilman of Buffalo, New York and Boca Grande, Florida passed away unexpectedly from natural causes on January 27, 2024, at age 75.
Bob was happily married for 53 years to his high school sweetheart Pamela Davis Heilman. The couple’s first date was their high school prom.
Bob grew up in Youngstown NY and attended Lewiston/Porter High School before he graduated from Kenmore East High School in Tonawanda, New York in 1966 and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York in 1970, where he was an active member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He received an MBA from the University at Buffalo in 1975 and later became a licensed professional engineer.
Bob spent his engineering and management career in Western New York, including 20 years with Airco Carbon in Niagara Falls, where he ultimately led a start-up of a new manufacturing process involving the design and operation of a prototype facility. After Airco, he worked for several years in the folding carton and packaging industry in executive management for MOD-PAC and then PhilPac Corporation.
He continued his career as the head of Buffalo Batt, a division of Leggett & Platt, which made cushioning products for furniture and bedding, including stuffing for large M&M characters and the cushions for LL Bean dog beds. The company then began “Buffalo Snow,” repurposing the fluffy white polyester fiber used in cushioning products for use under Christmas trees and in displays. In 2003, Bob began making regular trips to Hong Kong and China to source related Christmas decorative products. Buffalo Batt built an 80 percent North American market share in these products, selling them at major department stores, hobby shops and other retailers in the US and Canada. Bob’s email tagline was “Only God Makes More Snow.” Bob and Pam also attended the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as spending time in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Quindao and Dalian.
In Boca Grande, Bob served on board of their condominium association for many years, including serving time as the Board President. His engineering background was especially beneficial when dealing with construction projects, particularly after Hurricane Ian. He also served on the Gasparilla Island Water Authority Board where he was part of the committee that oversaw the construction of the new sewer plant and served on the search committee for the current executive director.
In addition to his wife Pam, he is survived by two brothers, Will Heilman of Washington DC and Ray Heilman (Carie) of Scottsdale, Arizona and three foster brothers, Art Tyra (Melody) of Las Vegas, Nevada, Eric Tyra (Cindy) of Fair Hope, Alabama and Timur Tyra (Liz) of Jamestown, New York and his sister-in-law Carol Stopa of Columbus, Ohio. Bob was also a loving uncle, job counselor, life advisor, mentor, and friend to all his nieces, nephews and their spouses.
Bob will be missed and remembered for his dry sense of humor, strong opinions, and generosity of spirit. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, 1 Naval, Marina Park S, Buffalo, NY 14202 or Salvation Army at 960 Main Street, Buffalo NY 14202.
A gathering in his honor is being held at the Boca Grande Club, and a second celebration of life will be held in Buffalo later this year.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert Heilman, please visit Tribute Store