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Crowd sings ‘You Are My Sunshine’ for WCC’s Heiner at memorial

Video: Honor guard pays tribute to former Whatcom Community College president Harold Heiner

An honor guard pays tribute to former Whatcom Community College president Harold Heiner at the college Tuesday , Oct. 27, 2015. Heiner passed away Oct. 17, 2015.
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An honor guard pays tribute to former Whatcom Community College president Harold Heiner at the college Tuesday , Oct. 27, 2015. Heiner passed away Oct. 17, 2015.

On what would have been Harold Heiner’s birthday Oct. 27, a crowd of people sang “You Are My Sunshine” in the building named after the 24-year college president.

Friends, family and former colleagues sang the song at the end of a public memorial as a tribute to Heiner, who died Oct. 17 at the age of 76 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“He sang it to everybody,” said Heiner’s daughter, Dena Bosscher. “A lot of people associated that song with him.”

Heiner was Whatcom Community College’s president from 1983-2007. College trustees named the library and the performing arts center — where the memorial was held — after Heiner in 1997.

Heiner will be remembered for his part in creating a central campus for WCC. On Tuesday, however, close friends and family shared stories about Heiner and portrayed him as more than the designer of a college campus.

His younger brother reflected on growing up together in Skagit County. Then, Heiner’s son dug up a story from 1972 when Heiner, as a faculty member at Skagit Valley Community College, was involved with the school newspaper printing a picture of a mostly naked man covered strategically with daffodils.

Phil Sharpe, a former WCC Board of Trustees member, recalled examples of Heiner demonstrating how much he cares for his students.

People in the crowd took the microphone and shared more stories about Heiner. Current WCC president Kathi Hiyane-Brown said Heiner had the qualities of a good leader. A former student said Heiner “could make you feel like you were the only person in his life,” even though everyone knew how busy he was.

Heiner earned an associate arts degree from Skagit Valley Community College, a bachelor’s degree at Western Washington University, a master’s degree from Washington State University, and a doctorate degree from University of Washington.

He was dean of instruction at WCC and took over as president in 1983 following the death of former president William Laidlaw.

The memorial was streamed on WCC’s YouTube channel, partly to allow former international WCC students to watch. Anyone who knew Heiner can post memories or share a message of condolence at whatcom.edu/haroldheiner.

Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or wilson.criscione@bellinghamherald.com.

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