September 30, 2020 Community Stories
A Lasting Love Affair with Heath
Don Conlan’s love of Heath started with a 30-acre abandoned pasture he bought from a local farmer in 1970.
By then, he was a career economist who’d worked at the highest levels of banks, brokerage firms, and government in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
Conlan answered, “Let me give you a little saying on t-shirts sold at the Heath annual agricultural fair: ‘Heath is more a concept than a place.’ It’s really true. Heath just has a mystique of its own. People fall in love with it, become very protective of it. It’s warm, cheerful, interactive and enjoys tremendous community support. And if you try and take yourself too seriously in Heath, you’re done for.”
Born and raised on a Michigan farm and now a California resident, Conlan has long savored Heath’s laid-back, humble vibe.
For decades he’s visited Heath, staying in a modest cabin (no electricity or insulation) he built on his now-forested pasture. He’s never missed the Heath Fair—“a time for gathering East Coast friends for a rip-roaring good time,” he says.
Of course we had a float in the fair every year. We were notorious. We called ourselves the Heath Hysterical Society. It was always humorous and sometimes outrageously so.”
Conlan’s keen interest in Heath’s historical landmarks—some dating back to the mid-1700s—compelled him to establish a philanthropic fund at the Community Foundation that will benefit the town forever.
Conlan established the Dickinson Family Fund for Historical Heath—named to honor a revered Heath family which, he says, is connected to the poet, Emily Dickinson.
“I wanted to assure there’s money to support the maintenance and repairs of the various aspects of Heath history.” The fund supports the Heath Agricultural Fair, Union Church, and the Heath Historical Society.
Conlan designated the leaders from each entity and Dickinson family members to allocate the fund’s dollars each year. “I had to put it in the hands of the people whom I knew and trusted to shepherd the history and the historical artifacts of Heath to the future.”
Thanks to Conlan’s gifts, Heath’s future is, indeed, in good hands.