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Local community businessman remembered

Xavier Smith • Updated Dec 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Close friends of business pioneer and community partner William “Bill” David Heydel remembered him and his work after he died earlier this week.

Heydel died peacefully in his home Nov. 29, 2016 in Lebanon at the age of 87. He is survived by his son, Richard (Sally) Heydel, of Brentwood; brother, Kenneth Heydel, of Crab Orchard; sister, Mary (Ralph) Brown, of Rockwood, and many other family and friends.

“He was a loving, Christian husband, father and friend to so many and was very generous with his time and all that God had blessed him with. He taught me how to love those around me and to constantly consider that love and not take any day for granted,” close friend Andy Head said. He was a man of faith and perseverance and was respected by so many because he was a pioneer in business.”

Head said he called Heydel “Paw” for the closeness of their relationship and closeness of their families.

“My wife and children and family will miss him greatly and we praise God we were a part of his life and thankful he and Jean loved us,” he said.

Heydel moved to Lebanon after he joined American Family Life, and from 1964-83, developed the AFLAC Tennessee sales force into a perennial leader in the company until his retirement.

Heydel was also a founding member of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and served on its board of directors until 1999, and served on the board for Cumberland University and First Tennessee Bank.

Former Cumberland University president Harvill Eaton described Heydel as extraordinary.

“The times were extraordinary and the man was extraordinary. He meant a lot to both my wife and to me. Bill and his wife, June, reached out to us as if they knew us when we first came to Lebanon to be at Cumberland back in 2004,” said Eaton, who said he observed a multifaceted man over the years.

Heydel was an active member of First United Methodist Church since 1964. 

“He was a man of faith. He loved his church and he loved what it did – not for just himself and his wife – but for others. It was a deep church relationship,” Eaton said.

Heydel’s wife of 67 years, June, died last year.

“He loved his wife. In watching Bill and June, you understood daily what it meant for a marriage to be a good marriage. He gave so much to her and she to him,” Eaton said.

Eaton also described the couple’s commitment to Cumberland University.

“He loved Cumberland. The June and Bill Heydel Fine Arts Center is a physical tribute to not only what he was able to do financially, but it was tribute to their giving to the community,” he said.

June had a special heart for the arts and was an avid patron of the arts at Cumberland University and in the arts community of Nashville. Heydel received an honorary doctor of literary letters from Cumberland in 1983.

“I’m sad, but I’m glad in a way because he gets to go now and be with June, again. I’m sure they’re holding hands in heaven,” Eaton said.