With the passing of Julius W. Hegeler II, the city has lost a community treasure.
Danville’s Julius W. Hegeler II excelled in every aspect of his long life.
He was a success in business and a decorated combat fighter pilot during the Korean War. But most of all, he was a star as a humanitarian and philanthropist.
Mr. Hegeler died last week at 91 after a life well-lived.
It’s easy to say that about someone after he has passed away. After all, it’s considered unseemly to speak ill of the dead.
But in Mr. Hegeler’s case, it is indisputably the truth.
He used the wealth he accumulated in a successful business career to establish a charitable foundation and then set about supporting a wide variety of causes aimed at improving people’s lives. In doing so, he made Danville a better place to live.
To name just a few charitable endeavors, Mr. Hegeler supported public education, health care, historic preservation, the arts and people with disabilities. His heart, clearly, was as big as his wallet.
On the personal side, he was unassuming. As one associate noted, Mr. Hegeler was not too proud to pick up a broom and sweep a sidewalk at a grand opening for a playground he helped fund.
Although Mr. Hegeler undoubtedly enjoyed the positive public attention he received, he also was not one who sought the limelight.
What Mr. Hegeler sought to do was use the financial resources he acquired during his lifetime to help out because he thought it was the right thing to do.
People like that don’t come around very often. That’s why Mr. Hegeler was a blessing to the people who knew him, as well as those he helped through his incredible generosity.