Stephen L. Heffner, 68, of Ford City, passed away on Monday, August 9, 2021.
He was born April 23, 1953, in Kittanning, to the late James W. Heffner, Sr. and Juanita B. (Tolliver) Heffner-Carr.
Stephen resided in Ford City most of his life. He was a member of the Second Baptist Church and was a graduate of Ford City High School. He attended Fairmont State University and was on the basketball team. He also attended Westminster College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education. He received his master’s degree in education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He was an elementary school teacher in the state of California and taught at Lenape Elementary in Ford City, as well as Shannock Valley Elementary in Rural Valley. Stephen preceded his late uncle, Frank Tolliver, Sr., who was the first African American teacher in Armstrong County. He retired from the Armstrong School District after years of honorable service, receiving the Child Advocacy Award and Walmart’s Armstrong County Teacher of the Year.
He was a lead singer, along with his sister, Katt, in the band “The Versatiles”. He enjoyed entertaining in his specialty, First Class Productions, in which he was a D.J. for weddings, private parties, fundraisers, and community events. He was also a coach for boys’ basketball.
Stephen served for five years in the Ford City Hall of Fame as governor, and participated in the nomination, selection, and induction process over the years. In 1997, he was inducted into the Ford City Hall of Fame.
He organized and held programs that especially benefited teenagers of the community, including Y.O.O. (The Youth Opportunity Organization). Y.O.O. sold the famous fried pies at the park during Heritage Days, and were instrumental with the fish dinners at the old CME Methodist Church and Ping Pong Pizza Movie Night at the P.P.G. Union Hall.
Stephen joined Jerry Lewis’s Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in fundraising, and volunteered at the Light of Life Mission in Pittsburgh. He was also a member of the Lions Club, Ford City V.F.W., and was the founder of the “Playground Experience” at the Boulder Park playground, where summer recreation programs provided lunches and movies, and return-to-school packs. He also coached basketball for the summer basketball league.
Stephen also founded the Ford City Renaissance Community Partnership and the Light UP Day committee, which then became what is now known as Ford City Light Up Night. He became the first volunteer driver of the Ford City Choo-Choo Train , which was given to the Ford City Area Business and Professional Association by the P.P.G. fabricators. The train was transferred to the Ford City Borough, which in turn, transferred ownership to the Ford City Renaissance Community Partnership.
In July 2014, Stephen spearheaded a fundraiser campaign to purchase a memorial stone to honor the working-class black families who found jobs and settled in the lower end of Ford City. He also founded the annual “Bowling for Veterans”, “Thanksgiving Basket Drawing Benefit”, and “Operation Bandage: Heal the Wounds”, organization to honor and assist our nation’s wounded veterans, and assist families of those who gave their lives for our freedoms.
In 2016, Stephen was recognized by the V.F.W. for his outstanding dedication and promotion of Black History and American history and tradition at the elementary school level. In 2019, he formed a Red Cross fundraiser for the fires in Australia, and formed “Movies in the Park” for the community in the Ford City Park.
In 2021, Stephen fulfilled one of his childhood dreams by spearheading the recognition of the Boulder Park Playground supervisors, Mary Jane Dietz and Alice Ware. Two walkways on the grounds bear their names as a memorial of love, dedication, and appreciation.
He is survived by his children, Brent R. Hockenberry and Kyle J. Hockenberry, both of Kittanning, with whom he made a home with Soney Hockenberry, and William B. Andring and his mother, Heather, of Indiana. He also leaves behind his mother, Juanita, of Ford City, brothers: James W. Heffner, Jr. (wife, Gwenna) of Freeport, Stanley A. Heffner (wife, Velma) of Kittanning, Melvin Heffner (wife, Arlena) of Ford City, and his siter, Kathryn E. Heffner of Florida. He also has numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by a brother, Keith D. Heffner.
Friends will be welcomed from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m., on Friday, in the Welch Funeral Service LLC, 1032 Fourth Ave., Ford City. A private funeral service will be held for his immediate family at Second Baptist Church in Ford City. Due to COVID-19, the family is mandating mask wearing at the visitation. A larger public tribute to Stephen will be held on August 21, 2021, from 3-7 p.m., at the 10th Street Station, 301 10th Street, Ford City. In lieu of flowers, the Heffner family would appreciate donations to the Stephen L. Heffner Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Armstrong County Community Foundation, 220 S. Jefferson St., Kittanning, PA 16201. The fund will be used for individuals pursuing an education major after graduating high school.
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