William ‘Bill’ Heeman

William ‘Bill’ Heeman

DECEMBER 1, 1933 – JUNE 28, 2017

Farmer and innovator. Born Dec. 1, 1933; died June 28, 2017 in London, Ont., age 83.

Bill Heeman worked literally until the day he died at the London-area retail greenhouse operation he and his wife, Susan, established 54 years ago.

The couple emigrated from Holland in the late 1950s. While Bill was a mechanic by trade, Susan was raised in a family greenhouse business and urged her husband to enter this field. In 1963, the couple built a 10,000-square-foot (929-square-metre) greenhouse for wholesale tomatoes near a strawberry patch.

The family has since expanded Heeman’s Garden Centre tenfold to include greenhouses and retail facilities totalling 130,000 sq. ft. (12,077 sq. m) and 70 acres of strawberries, Bill’s grandson Will Heeman said in a recent interview. The business employs 85 people, including seven family members.

“(Bill) was 83 but he worked like he was 23,” Will said. Bill remained a visible, active participant in the business even after formal succession to his children eight years ago.

“My grandfather was an innovator in a lot of things but one of the greatest things … just came naturally … making time for customers, making them feel important and answering their questions,” Will said.

Heeman family photo


Written by Jim Algie.
Originally published in the November 2017 edition of Better Farming.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture