Rockport — R. Gordon Heaton of Rockport, formerly of Reading, died November 29, 2012 at his home. He was 92 years of age.
He was born in Tacoma, Wash. in 1920 the son of Roy C. and Essie E. (Haynes) Heaton. In 1933 his father was hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and in 1934, the family moved to Alabama. He attended the University of Alabama from 1938 to 1942 and graduated in electrical engineering. In 1942 he was elected to the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi.
During 1942-46 he worked in Cambridge, at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, where he worked on radar beacons, which extended the range of the radar used in World War II. While at MIT he began learning and ultimately teaching ballroom dancing—the beginning of a lifelong enthusiasm for dance.
After earning an M.S. from Harvard University in 1947 he was hired by the Laboratory for Electronics (LFE), and he worked there on radar performance test equipment for about twenty-five years until 1972. Then for the next 13 years—from 1972 until his retirement in 1985—he worked with a rating of "top engineer" at Raytheon, the defense-and-aerospace-systems company.
In 1979, Gordon Heaton embarked upon what was to be a more than thirty-year process of writing Striving for Wisdom, during which he thought about human mental processes and how we seem to have only a subconscious awareness of a wide range of distinctly different functions our minds perform. This led to his delineating the mental functions of the decision process, and the moral dimensions of our individual and social choices. He views the learning process as iterative, with hindsight educating foresight. The principles developed in the early part of the book are applied in the latter chapters to contentious social issues including women's rights, sex education, and abortion.
It should not be a surprise that he uses the scientific way of functioning and thinking as a model. But while science primarily deals with the physical world, he writes about our mental world and our societal world of interpersonal relationships, laws and customs.
Dancing has been important to him throughout his adult lifetime. When he moved to Boston during World War II, he didn't know anyone. He immediately signed up for dancing lessons at the Boston YWCA and dancing has been a passion ever since, learning new dances as he has gone along. After taking three series of lessons, he started teaching dancing. He danced regularly at the Frolics Dance Hall in Revere, where all the big bands of the time played.
When he was asked by a few women why it was so different dancing with him than with others he had taught, he came to this realization: "If you really listen to the music and get carried away with the music, you communicate the spirit of the music and the dance to your partner in a different way than if you just focus on the steps. You need to get the spirit of the music into your dance."
Gordon was the beloved husband of Dorothy (Giles) Souvaine Heaton; devoted father of Roy W. Heaton of Exeter, R.I., Clifford D. Heaton of Ware, Clayton E. Heaton of Middletown, Del., and Gary G. Heaton of Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the loving step father of Chris Soutter of Arizona, Diane Souvaine of Lexington and Emily Souvaine Meehan of Connecticut. He was the loving grandfather of 12 and great-grandfather of five; cerished brother of the late Donald H. Heaton, Muriel J. Christie and Elaine V. Laughton.
ARRANGEMENTS: A funeral celebrating his life will be held on Monday, December 3 at the First Congregational Church 25 Woburn St., in Reading. Burial will be in Forest Glen Cemetery in Reading. There are no visiting hours. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Gordon’s memory to Caring for Caring 35R School St. Rockport, MA 01966. Arrangements under the direction of the Douglass, Edgerley and Bessom Funeral Home, Reading. For information, directions and on line guest book visit johnbdouglassfuneralhome.com