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Walter Heimer, LIU professor, dies at 85

Walter Heimer, a longtime psychology professor at LIU

Walter Heimer, a longtime psychology professor at LIU Post known for his dapper appearance and warm demeanor, died of complications of lung cancer. He was 85. Credit: handout

Walter Heimer, a longtime psychology professor at LIU Post known for his dapper appearance and warm demeanor, died on Friday of complications of lung cancer. He was 85.

Heimer was born in the Bronx on June 24, 1927, to Polish immigrants who soon moved to Long Island to begin a rooming-house business, said Heimer's daughter, Jessica Wagener, of Burlington, Vt.

The family then branched out into candy stores in Lynbrook and Freeport, where a young Walter Heimer could often be seen behind the counters, fixing egg creams for his chatty customers.

"He became a very gregarious and friendly person because of that experience," Wagener said. "He dealt with the public from a very early age."

After graduating from Freeport High School, Heimer attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania for a year before joining the Navy in 1945 as a corpsman, his daughter said. The war ended before he was shipped overseas, and instead he spent the next two years tending wounded veterans in California and Massachusetts.

That experience turned the young Heimer away from his former dreams of becoming a doctor, Wagener said. "He found it very sad and upsetting to take care of these wounded young men," she said. "It was kind of a sad period in his life."

Heimer returned to Allegheny College after his service, and enrolled in a graduate program at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, where he eventually also received his doctorate.

It was there Heimer discovered both of his new loves: psychology, and a young fellow student named Eva Schoenberger, who initially wanted nothing to do with him.

"He asked her out, and she turned him down," Wagener said. "She told him she was seeing someone."

But Heimer persisted, eventually winning a date with the promise of a trip to the beach in Freeport. The two married in 1956, opting to elope one morning in an effort to end the arguments between their mothers about what type of wedding they would have.

The couple moved several times while Heimer conducted his postgraduate psychology work, eventually ending up in Port Washington, where they had lived while Heimer worked as a psychologist at the naval base in Sands Point.

Heimer began work as a psychology professor at Hofstra University, Wagener said, before moving to LIU Post in 1967.

He spent the next 46 years there, eschewing the idea of retirement. He was actively teaching psychology until last December, and at his death had been helping to create a new religious studies program there.

"I tried to get him to retire many times, but he was devoted to his job," Wagener said. "He knew that was what kept him going."

LIU Post issued a statement saying that Heimer was "a beloved teacher and colleague, and will be much missed by everyone on campus."

In addition to his wife and Wagener, Heimer is survived by another daughter, Annette Wilensky of Lowell, Mass.; a sister, Marilyn Heimer of Manhattan; and four grandchildren.

Services were held Monday, and Heimer was buried at Wellwood Cemetery, Pinelawn. LIU Post is planning a memorial service in October.

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