Stephen G. Heaver, 80, founded Fire Museum

June 24, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF Editorial assistant Holton F. Brown contributed to this article.

Stephen G. Heaver, a builder and developer whose fascination with fire trucks and apparatus led him to create the Fire Museum of Maryland, died Monday of lung failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Lutherville resident was 80.

Mr. Heaver loved fire trucks all his life. As a boy, he would sit on the curb near his Roland Park home -- around the corner from a fire station -- to watch them rumble past.

He bought his first piece of fire equipment in 1962 and founded the Lutherville museum in 1971. Today, it is one of the country's largest and most complete collections of firefighting history, and receives about 12,000 visitors annually.

"It was a hobby that went wild," said his son, Allan B. Heaver of Butler. "That's how he described it."

A successful builder and developer, Mr. Heaver opened the museum in an 18,000-square-foot building behind Heaver Plaza, which he built on York Road.

The nonprofit museum has about 40 fire engines on display that Mr. Heaver and another son, Stephen G. Heaver Jr. of Baltimore, collected over the years. Every era of firefighting apparatus is correctly represented -- including 1800s-era hand-drawn and horse-drawn gear.

"This whole thing started out very innocently," the elder Heaver said in a 1978 interview with The Sun. "Now I am fully carried away and out of control."

Mahlon Hessey, a member of the museum's board, said Mr. Heaver received satisfaction in helping to educate young visitors.

"He was a blue-chip gentleman," Mr. Hessey said. "He did it out of his own interest. He was very generous with the fire museum."

Mr. Heaver said he was always interested in trucks and engines, and bought his first engine -- a 1928 American LaFrance pumper -- from the Hereford Volunteer Fire Department for less than $500.

Next was a 1922 Ahrens-Fox pumper -- which he called the "Rolls Royce of fire engines" -- that for years was assigned to the old North Eutaw Street station. He bought it from the city Fire Department for $250 and restored it in six years. It was the first Ahrens-Fox to be accurately restored in the United States.

By 1969, he had 13 classic motorized fire vehicles. At the time, he lived on Lakehurst Drive near the city-Baltimore County line and routinely parked several fire vehicles on the side of his home.

"The neighbors didn't care for that too much," his son said. "I'm sure of that."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Heaver attended City College in the 1930s and delivered groceries by wagon for local merchants. He later sold parts for the Mack Truck Co. when it was located in Baltimore.

Mr. Heaver joined the Navy in 1940, serving during World War II aboard the USS Goff and seeing duty throughout the Atlantic from the Balboa Canal Zone in Panama and South America to Africa. He became an instructor at the Naval Training Center in Bainbridge before his discharge in 1945.

He and several friends operated the Pentagon Trucking Co. from 1946 to 1952. Mr. Heaver started his construction company in the 1950s, and erected as many as 30 buildings in the Baltimore area.

Mr. Heaver was an early member of Baltimore's Box 414 Association, serving until the late 1950s in the fire buff club that operates a canteen service at fires and maintains its own fire museum.

He was a supporter of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Department, assisting with its purchase of fire equipment.

Throughout his life, he was active at University Baptist Church at Charles and 34th streets, where he served as chairman of both the board of trustees and deacons. A memorial service will be held there at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

In addition to his sons, Mr. Heaver is survived by his wife, the former Doris Alt, whom he married in 1947; a brother, Philip A. Heaver of Newtown Square, Pa.; and four grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Fire Museum of Maryland, 1301 York Road, Lutherville 21093.

Pub Date: 6/24/98

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