|Birth: ||Dec. 30, 1988|
|Death: ||Jul. 17, 2009|
Obituary, published in The Daily News on 7/21/2009:
Allen Lee Heck, 20, of Longview passed away July 17, 2009, as the result of drowning.
He was born Dec. 30, 1988, in Longview and attended North Salem High School, R.A. Long High School and Lower Columbia College.
Allen enjoyed hunting, camping, fishing, rafting and being with family and friends. He was an outgoing young man with a great sense of humor. Allen made many friends. He was diagnoses with type 1 diabetes at 17 and spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. Allen is loved and will be missed by his family and friends.
Allen is survived by his father and stepmother, Todd Heck and Pam Myers; his mother and stepfather, Tara (Delano) and Jeff Kubacki; a brother, Kenneth Heck; a sister and brother-in-law, Shantel and David Huff; his grandparents, Mardi Jacob, Tim and Linda Delano, Dolly and Dick Spencer, Lonney and Jan Kubacki and Terri and Jim Merchant; his great-grandmothers, Dolly McAfee, Mary Kubacki and Patty Williamson; a niece, Mahalia Huff; a nephew, Damiaiaon Huff; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his grandfather, "Papa Bill" Jacob; and his great-grandparents, Betty and Walter Howe, and Maggie Varner.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Faith Temple Church with Pastor Bob Giles officiating.
contributions may be made in Allen's name to the Cowlitz County Dive and Rescue Team, 312 SW 1st Ave., Kelso, WA 98626.
Arrangements are by Columbia Funeral Service.
Please sign the guest book at www.tdn.com/obits.
Authorities identify man who saved girl in Cowlitz River
Saturday, July 18, 2009 9:10 PM PDT
By Barbara LaBoe and Leila Summers
A young man is believed drowned after rushing into the Cowlitz River on Friday afternoon to rescue a young girl in over her head.
Divers suspended the search for Allen Heck, 20, of Longview later in the evening.
"It was nothing short of heroic," Capt. Mark Nelson of the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Department said of Heck's deed. "He made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for that little girl."
Search crews — including a Coast Guard Helicopter and Cowlitz County Dive Team members — searched the river into the evening. But Heck disappeared under the water roughly at 3 p.m., making his chances of survival increasingly slim, officials said.
According to officials and witnesses, a 9-year-old girl was playing on a sand bar near the old Kelso water treatment plant off Pacific Avenue in North Kelso when she fell off a shelf and was suddenly in water more than 8 feet deep.
Heck, who was enjoying a warm day near the river with friends, saw the commotion, ran and dived into the swift, frigid water.
He was able to lift the girl's head out of the water, said Paul Pennington, who was also at the beach with friends.
"He was under water holding her up," said a shaken Pennington. "I was 15 feet away."
Someone grabbed the girl from Heck and lifted her to safety.
Heck, witnesses said, then slipped beneath the surface of the river, came back up twice, then disappeared.
The girl, whom Heck did not know, was not harmed and went home with her family.
Distraught friends and family left the scene shortly after speaking with officials and rescue crews Friday afternoon. Two women sobbed in each other's arms near the water's edge but did not want to talk about the incident and left shortly thereafter.
Officials said the water is deceptively deep on the other side of the sandbar and cold enough to shock someone on a hot day.
"This is where life jackets come in and why they're so important near any water and particularly something like a river," said Alan Headley, assistant chief of Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue.
"I don't understand why they were out on that side to begin with, it's too deep," said Sean Grendon who also was at the river at the time.
"Every year we seem to lose someone (in the river) between Cowlitz Way and the Cowlitz Gardens," Capt. Nelson said. "People don't understand about the drop off and don't understand how cold the water is."
Nelson said a decision has not been made whether to continue the search Saturday.
"We had a lot of people turn out. A lot of divers put in a lot of hard work fighting the current," he said.
Nelson speculated that the cold temperature of the glacier-fed Cowlitz River, combined with the exertion of getting the girl to shore contributed to Heck's inability to surface.
"You can be two inches from the surface, but if you run out of air, your body can just shut down from oxygen deprivation. And it can shut down very fast," he said.
Nelson said he was amazed at Heck's "selfless" act.
"Now and again, someone does something amazing in life and in doing so, gives up their own," Nelson said. "That's a hero."
Editor's note: Due to incorrect information provided by authorities, previous versions of this story stated that the girl Allen Heck was attempting to save is 3 years old. We have confirmed that the girl is 9 years old.
Child rescuer's body found downriver
Sunday, July 19, 2009
KELSO, Wash. - The body of a man who rescued a young girl from drowning in the Cowlitz River, then disappeared in the water, was found Saturday, according to Cowlitz County authorities.
The body of the 20-year-old man - identified by Cowlitz County authorities as Alan Heck - was found 50 yards downriver from where he was last seen. The Longview Daily News reported that Heck's first name was Allen.
Authorities said Heck went into the water after seeing the child in distress Friday afternoon. He was last seen after he handed the girl to a group of people once he neared the shore.
Heck, who did not know the girl, never made it to shore.
"It's incredibly heroic," said Capt. Mark Nelson of the Cowlitz Sheriff's office. "Honestly, I'm sure it was not his intention to give up his life for this girl, but he very selflessly went into the water. He ended up going in the water, costing his life, but he saved another on the process."
The girl's age was unknown. Her family left immediately after she was returned to shore, Nelson said.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelly Parker said Friday that the child appeared unhurt.
Heck's disappearance into the water sparked a search by local and county agencies, and the Coast Guard, which dispatched a helicopter.
"Our thanks to all of the volunteers who came and assisted in the location of Mr. Heck's body," Nelson said. "This will bring some well-needed closure for Mr. Heck's family. They must be incredibly proud, even in their loss."
The Cowlitz River's waters are cold and hide deep channels, Nelson said.
Family Calls Son Who Saved Girl Heroic
POSTED: 9:11 am PDT July 20, 2009
UPDATED: 9:38 am PDT July 20, 2009
KELSO, Wash. -- Family and friends began their grieving process for a man who they said was nothing short of a hero after he rescued a girl who was drowning and lost his own life Friday.
Cowlitz County sheriff's deputies said search-and-rescue crews and dive teams found the body of Alen Heck at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, 50 yards downriver from where he was last seen.
Todd Heck talked about his 20-year-old son, Alen, with a mixture of pride and sorrow.
"My son is a hero, more than just a hero," Todd Heck said. "He should be remembered as a kid on their best day."
"The little girl wandered into the shallow area, stepped into the channel and started to go down. Heck observed this, he ran, jumped in, located her, pushed her back to the surface, and held her above the water until somebody could grab her. I'm guessing the channel was too steep, and he probably trying to swim against the current, he wasn't able to do that for the both of them."
Cowlitz county sheriff's deputies said Alen Heck was at a beach in Kelso on Friday when he saw a girl in distress in the Cowlitz River. Witnesses said he didn't hesitate to dive in to help her.
"Next thing I know, I hear yelling and these 15-, 16-year-old girls, I see them reach over and pull up the girl out of the water and she's in shock. Next thing I know they're yelling, 'He's under! He's under!" witness Sean Grendon said.
The girl survived, but Alen Heck went under the swift-moving waters and never surfaced. Rescue crews found his body the next day.
"A little girl is alive because of him. She gets to sit down and have dinner with her family tonight because of him," Heck's sister Shantel Huff said.
Family described Heck as a son, brother, uncle and friend who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the life of a stranger.
"Anybody who knew Alen knew he was an awesome kid. He did everything for anybody and he was funny; he joked around about everything," Heck's friend Bambi Wilks said.
Todd Heck said he doesn't blame the girl and said she shouldn't feel bad.
"Do not feel guilty. It was a simple accident, it could've happened to anyone at any time. This just happened to be who it happened to at this time. It will not be the last in this world," Todd Heck said.
Heck's family said any donations in memory of Alen Heck should go to Cowlitz County Search and Rescue and the dive teams, who they said they can't thank enough.
Man who died saving girl was extremely ill
by BARBARA LaBOE, The Longview Daily News
Story Published: Jul 26, 2009 at 6:11 PM PDT
Originally printed at http://www.komonews.com/news/51747952.html
KELSO, Wash. (AP) - Allen Heck has been hailed a hero since running into the Cowlitz River last week to save a 9-year-old girl, losing his own life in the process. Unknown by most is that Heck was an extremely ill young homeless man with the simple goal of living to his 21st birthday.
The 20-year-old Longview man had drifted for about three years after diabetes barred him from the only job he ever wanted - serving in the Army. Directionless, he made some bad decisions, family and friends admit, and was living at the Community House shelter at the time of the drowning.
But despite frequent hospitalizations for diabetes and complications and the news he only had a few years to live, at best Heck kept trying to put his life back together, family and friends said. And his actions one week ago surprised no one who knew him.
"That's just the way he was," said former girlfriend Abbie Svoboda, who now lives in Florida. "It was always all about whoever needed help."
"He did have a troubled past, but what my son did the other day was amazing," said Tara Kubacki. "He didn't even think of himself or his health."
Heck was at the Cowlitz River in Kelso on July 17 with his sister's 15-year-old stepson, his 3-year-old niece and one of her friends. They visited the river often to cool down on hot days, sister Shantel Huff recalled.
At about 3 p.m. a 9-year-old girl from a nearby group was playing in the water off of a sandbar and stepped in over head where a shelf drops off to 8 feet deep. The 15-year-old with Heck heard the cries for help first and ran to help, calling for Heck when the panicked girl fought and scratched him, Huff said.
All three Heck children knew how to swim and had taken junior lifeguard classes, so Huff is sure her brother didn't give the rescue a second thought. Heck reached the 9-year-old and was able to hold her up above water even though he also was in over his head. Someone grabbed the girl and set her safely on the sandbar. When they looked back, Heck was gone. His body was found by Cowlitz Dive Team members the next day.
Heck had just been released from the hospital four days before he drowned, one of many hospitalizations in recent months.
Because he was so sick, he could not hold a steady job. He'd find work only to lose it after some complication or overexertion landed him back in the hospital.
Heck fought for two years to get some sort of disability designation because he couldn't come close to working enough to afford his treatment and medicine. Diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce enough insulin to covert sugar into energy. Diabetics often need daily injections of insulin to avoid comas and other complications.
With no money and massive debts, Heck ran into trouble with the law just days before he died.
He told police he was desperate for money to buy his lifesaving insulin, according to court records.
"He was $200,000 in debt," his mother said, shaking her head. "$200,000 at 20 years old."
Worse than the monetary cost, diabetes also took away Heck's hope and dreams, family and friends said.
Heck spent his childhood focused on joining the Army. He spent two years in the junior ROTC program at Salem and delighted in challenging his brother to strength competitions or workouts.
"He liked to show he was better than me, and he was," Kenneth Heck said.
As strong as he was, the Army would not overlook his diabetes, which was diagnosed at age 17.
"He wanted to help people, he wanted to serve his country," his mother said. "When they told him they couldn't take him it just shattered his dreams."
"He was just so bummed out because that was the one thing he really wanted to do," said Svoboda, who dated Heck when they both attended North Salem High School. The two kept in touch via MySpace and Svoboda said while he didn't talk about it much, it was clear Heck was adrift after his military plans fell through.
"It did seem like he was having a hard time dealing with it," she said. "He didn't have a backup plan and he kept trying to find out what he could do. His heart was crushed."
Heck moved out of his mother and stepfather's home while still attending R.A. Long High School. He never graduated and struggled to find a steady job or home, often bouncing between friends and relatives.
"We talked to him on numerous occasions about what he needed to do in life," stepfather Jeff Kubacki said. "But sometimes parents are stupid and kids know it all."
Throughout it all, though, Heck loved spending time with family and delighted in playing with his young niece and nephew.
"I don't know a person out there who didn't make at least one mistake," Huff said. "Maybe he didn't learn from the first one and had to do it a couple of times, but he wasn't a bad person."
"Lately he's been trying to get back on his feet," said childhood friend Joey Malave, who saw Heck at the Salvation Army a week before his death. "He was trying to get his life together and get his own place."
"He was going to LCC and doing odd jobs through a temp agency," his mother said. "I think he was trying to find his niche."
Dogging Heck's every move was the diabetes that threw his entire body out of whack and kept landing him in the hospital.
Doctors told him he'd be lucky to see 25. Recently they had downgraded that to 21, Huff said.
"After the Army, that was his next goal," Huff said. "To live past 21."
Despite the dire prognosis, Heck kept his problems to himself, rarely talking about it or his struggles.
He once helped Community House staff stuff envelopes even though he wasn't feeling well, recalled Mae McCoy. Only at the end did he ask for a ride to the hospital, where he spent the next three days in intensive care, McCoy said.
"He saw something that needed done and he did it, even if he wasn't feeling well," she said.
Heck was known as the family Superman growing up, Jeff Kubacki said, because he always was the first of the three children to try something scary. Huff said he wanted to be strong for everyone else.
Though devastated at their loss, Heck's family repeatedly stressed that the girl Heck saved and her family shouldn't feel guilty about his death. They do hope it increases the use of life jackets around the region's lakes and rivers.
As for Heck, they said he'd be glad he was able to help. And also glad that for once his health did not get in the way.
Specifically: Cremated at his request, no other info.
Created by: Jo Frey
Record added: Jul 20, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 39665697
I love and miss you my son. I wish you were still here. You may be gone but not forgotten. You are loved and missed by so many. Love mom|
Added: Nov. 30, 2014
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