Former Marine and WWII veteran Dr. E. Bruce Heilman arrives at the U-Haul corporate towers in Phoenix draped in a leather vest and riding his personalized Harley-Davidson®.
The esteemed Chancellor of the University of Richmond sits over a sandwich and bowl of soup to share the story of why he is celebrating his 90th birthday this year by repeating his 2015 feat of a 6,000-mile solo motorcycle journey through more than 20 states in 23 days to help raise awareness for the Spirit of ’45.
To learn more about the Spirit of ’45 and its mission, or to donate to the cause, visit spiritof45.org.
“The purpose of this annual ride is to reawaken America’s awareness of the true meaning of Memorial Day and the importance of honoring the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our county, and their families,” said Warren Hegg, National Supervisor of “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive.”
Heilman is as charming and authentic as he is wise, the epitome of what America’s greatest generation stands and an ideal front man for any organization promoting a worthy cause.
“Now I’ll speak for all of us, including our chief in command (Hegg), about how much we appreciate everything U-Haul has done,” Heilman said.
U-Haul, founded in 1945 by WWII Navy veteran Sam “L.S.” Shoen and Anna Mary Carty Shoen, has supported the Spirit of ’45 through financial and in-kind donations since the foundation’s inception. U-Haul is again sponsoring the Spirit of ’45 Day float in the National Memorial Day Parade. U-Haul Team Members will participate by marching in the parade and waving American flags.
The float will be led by Heilman and his Harley as he completes his epic journey in the parade. Four hundred children are slated to join Heilman at the nation’s capital to march in the National Memorial Day Parade. Educating our youth about Memorial Day and WWII is what makes this cause special for Heilman. He has a passion for education, having used the GI bill to further his own education and making higher education the backbone of his 65-year professional career.
Heilman grew up on a dairy farm during the Great Depression, a time where eating was more important than education, he explains. He spent most of his youthful years helping the family and barely had enough credits to graduate high school before he enlisted. Later on, at a junior college, he was able to refocus his educational efforts. From there continued his education at Vanderbilt University and earned a PhD. The Chancellor does not forecast retirement in his near future.
Nothing seems to be stop Heilman or his infectious spirit these days. And with his go-getter attitude, don’t be surprised if you spot him riding his Harley when he is 100.
“Life is either a great adventure or nothing,” said Heilman, quoting Helen Keller. “So I say to people that riding my motorcycle is my great adventure. And it’s important to know that if you don’t take advantage of it, it goes away.”
Check out our story on last year’s National Memorial Day Parade.