By Erin Tierney – The Creswell Chronicle
It was a lovely summer day on May 5, 1955.
There was a gathering at the squire’s residence in Grundisburgh, Suffolk, England. Richard, then 30, was on temporary duty with the military, playing lawn bowling and meeting with friends at the party. It was there he saw a daughter of his friend Chris walking along with a beautiful English woman. That woman was Barbara Keeling, 19, later to be known as Barbara Heyman.
The two hit it off in an instant, sharing laughs and swapping stories.
Some time later, Richard moved to England for work purposes, and the two saw one another socially. But circumstances made it difficult to be able to date. Richard was transferred back to the States in 1958 and the two lost touch for a few years.
Some time later though, fate tugged on that common thread between Barbara and Richard — in the form of the friend who introduced them at the squire’s residence in May.
“The friend who introduced us, Chris, she went to the States to marry and while she was there, she visited Richard,” Barbara said. “He told Chris we had lost contact. Well, when Chris came back to England, she stopped by my office to visit. She said Richard could talk about no one else but me! So, I wrote to him.”
The two wrote letters to each other for some time, and when Richard would go back to England on temporary duty, he’d spend his free days calling on Barbara, even if he could only see her once in three months. This went on for a while, and as their love and their word count grew, the relationship grew more and more serious.
On Dec. 17, 1959, Richard took Barbara on a date to see a play, “The Murder at the Vicarage,” by Agatha Christie. It was there where Richard proposed.
She said she’d tell him her answer tomorrow.
“The next day, I went to pick her up,” Richard said. “At that time, she lived over a grocery store — a quaint cottage with a thatched roof. It was there she said ‘yes.’”
Wedding bells began to chime and on Jan. 31, 1960, Barbara got on a plane to the States and Richard picked her up in a pickup truck at 3:30 a.m. in Boston.
Down to the detail, they remember it all.
Barbara hustled through the airport, wedding gown clutched in her hands. She carried it right on the plane and wouldn’t allow anyone to touch it, her coveted gown she shopped for on her lunch break at home in England.
“He took me to Portsmouth, N.H., which was an easy transfer for me to be in New England,” she said.
On the fast track to wed, Richard has already made all the wedding arrangements, but forgot a few minor details — flowers and a photographer.
The two scurried downtown to grab some flowers and got ready for the wedding. It was a white wedding — snow up to their ears — on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 1960 at 8 p.m.
“She was a beautiful 22-year-old bride,” Richard said.
But because they forgot a photographer, they don’t have any professional photos, not from that night, anyway.
They did, however, dress up again to stage the wedding photos two days later, with Richard using a self-timer to run back to the group and jump in the photo after hitting the capture button.
They spend their honeymoon at Richard’s house for two nights before taking a trip to Niagara Falls in July. But two weeks after getting married, Richard left for work.
“Here I am, left with two children in a strange country where people drive on the wrong side of the road,” Barbara said, laughing. “I went to the commissary to get money — I wanted to get milk money for the children — and I told the clerk, ‘I don’t know what these little coins are, but I need a dollar’s worth of them.’”
Richard would go on to spend fair amount of time on serving on temporary duty out of the country, while Barbara stayed at home, tending to responsibilities at home with four children. Though the extended amount of time away from each other was difficult, Barbara held her own.
“My mother did it during World War II when my father was away for five years,” Barbara said. “My mother had seven of us to take care of. I figured if she could do it, so could I.”
The most romantic thing that’s happened to her, Barbara said, came a few years after being married.
“We had to go to a formal dinner dance in the officer’s club and he was off flying somewhere in Ohio,” Barbara said. “Richard remembered he didn’t get me a corsage for the dance, so he called back to the command post over the airplane radio.
“I told him, ‘I need to order a corsage for Barbara for the dance tonight,’” Dick said.
“And this is while he’s flying his airplane 37,000 feet in the air — that to me is romantic,” Barbara said.
“So I ordered the corsage over the radio,” Richard goes on, laughing. “When the command post officer asked me how much I want to pay, I tell him about $10. Next thing I hear, this guy comes on over the radio from Japan and says, ‘oh, last of the big spenders!’”
Laughs aside, Barbara remembers it was a beautiful corsage of orchids and she wore it proudly to the dance.
The family moved around a lot over the years and have countless stories of their travels.
“She was a typical military wife and I was a typical fighter pilot,” Richard said. “My career took us to places like California, Germany, New Hampshire, Vietnam, New York and Colorado Springs.
“We retired May 1, 1974, after 32 years of service to the Army and Air Force,” Richard said. “We retired, came to Oregon and built a house on Camas Swale Road,” Richard said. “We’ve been Oregonians ever since.”
They have two children together and have six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. The Heymans have since grown to be community figures, known for their heavy involvement with the City and its community — like their generous donation of $50,000 to the Creswell Education Foundation in 2016.
The two lovebirds have loads of stories, all stemming from that fateful day on May 5, 1955. Whether or not this story, or any Heyman stories are true, well, Richard and Barbara leave that up to the readers to decide, with a wink and a smile.