Johnston N. Hegeman, a retired Bethlehem Steel Corp. executive, conservationist and Churchville farmer who became increasingly alarmed by the loss of land to development in Harford County and decided to do something about it, died Wednesday from complications of lung disease at his farm. He was 73.
Mr. Hegeman was a founder in 1990 with Mildred S. Kreider, Sidney D. Kreider and David P. Miller of Harford Land Trust Inc., a nonprofit organization that tries to preserve rural land.
"He founded the trust because no local organization in Harford County was willing to take on the burden of acquiring land and conservation easements in the county," Mr. Miller, the trust's executive director, said yesterday.
"He said, 'We've got to do this,' and it simply wouldn't be here had it not been for his leadership," Mr. Miller said.
"He donated a substantial amount of his money to get it going, produced incorporation papers, a brochure describing the trust's mission, donating a computer and software as well as recruiting members," Mr. Miller said.
The organization has about 621 acres under protection and has helped to preserve Harford County's rural character.
"For the past 20 years that I've known John, he's been an ardent advocate for preserving our environment, and he truly made a differance. He will be greatly missed," said Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.
"He often had an outlook on land problems that no one had thought of," said retired Harford County Circuit Judge Brodnax Cameron Jr.
A former member and chairman of the Harford County Planning and Zoning Commission, Mr. Hegeman had long been interested in land management and conservation issues. He has also been an active member for many years of the Deer Creek Watershed Association and the Deer Creek Scenic River Advisory Board.
Mr. Hegeman, a Harford resident since 1958, raised cattle and pigs at Maiden's Bower, his 125-acre farm, which overlooks the Deer Creek Valley.
He built a house when he lived in New England and later built a 50-foot schooner, which he sailed to Maine.
Mr. Hegeman liked to relax at the end of the day in his favorite over-stuffed chair with a glass of scotch while listening to the music of Beethoven, Bach or Brahms.
He was born and raised in Jamestown, N.Y., a descendant of Capt. Daniel Niven, an officer in George Washington's army.
A graduate of Jamestown High School, he served in the Army during World War II and was discharged with the rank of second lieutenant in 1945.
He earned an engineering degree from Carnegie-Tech, now Carnegie Mellon, in 1948 and a bachelor's degree in literature from Washington and Jefferson College in 1950. He also did graduate engineering studies at the University of Maryland.
In 1948, he went to work at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Quincy, Mass., shipyard. He moved to Baltimore in 1951, when he was named vice president and general manager of the Swan Shoe Co. He returned to Bethlehem Steel Corp. in 1960, and was superintendent of the Sparrows Point rod and wire mills until retiring in 1983.
Mr. Hegeman was a member of the vestry of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 2929 Level Road in Churchville, where a memorial service will be at 11 a.m. today.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, the former Susan Weakley; three sons, Johnston N. Hegeman Jr. of Frostburg, Christopher Hegeman of Bel Air and Peter Hegeman of Providence, R.I.; a daughter, Pamela Bialozynski of Bel Air; and seven grandchildren.
Pub Date: 11/22/97