Floyd Vance Heaton, a Baha’i nearly six decades, spent more than half that time helping strengthen communities in the Navajo Nation, Panama and Chile.
Retired from a career as an industrial designer and educator, he passed away May 10, 2012, at age 88. He had lived in Leon County, Florida, since 2000.
In a letter of condolence to Marilyn Heaton, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States wrote, “Your husband’s nearly three decades of dedicated service, along with you, in the international pioneering field, carrying the Message of the Greatest Name to Panama and to Chile, are imperishable achievements and are most gratefully remembered.”
Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1923, Floyd grew up in a farm family. After service in the Navy in World War II, he completed schooling in industrial design in Los Angeles, and later worked at design studios in Chicago and Milwaukee.
He discovered the Baha’i Faith in Milwaukee and became a member in 1953. Not long afterward, he married Marilyn, another member of the community. The couple moved to Arizona and helped establish the first Local Spiritual Assemblies in Tempe and later in Prescott.
From 1958–1963 they served as homefront pioneers for the Faith in Tuba City in the heart of the Navajo Nation, where he taught school. They also helped plant seeds of Baha’i community there, and for several years Floyd was a member of the national American Indian Service Committee.
After he earned an advanced degree in Flagstaff, the family followed his career to Pomona, California, and back to Prescott.
In 1970 he gained a job as an instructor in the Apprentice School of the Panama Canal Company, so the couple and their three children relocated to Panama as a pioneer family. They stayed 26 years, in Coco Solo on the Caribbean end of the canal and later in Balboa on the Pacific end.
He shared the teachings of Baha’u’llah among Spanish-speaking campesinos in the area and also designed buildings and properties. He won a Baha’i design competition for the Guaymi Cultural Center that was approved by the Universal House of Justice and subsequently constructed in Soloy, Panama, for use by the Guaymi people.
In 1996, with Floyd retired, the couple moved to Temuco, Chile, where their daughter Lisa was serving as a pioneer. They finally resettled in the Tallahassee, Florida, area in 2000.
In addition to being a talented industrial designer, a family tribute says, he crafted silver and turquoise jewelry and belt buckles, stained glass hangings, and other artistic items. He loved trees and planted them in every place he lived. While in Tuba City, Arizona, he planted trees around the apartment complex, making it one of the greenest areas in town. In Panama, he planted hundreds of Persian lime, orange, grapefruit and macadamia trees.
He was preceded in death by a son, Todd, as well as two sisters and a brother. Floyd’s survivors include his wife, Marilyn; a daughter, Lisa, of Washington state; a son, Wade, of Florida; a sister, Caryl Bates of Nebraska; a brother, Lynn, of Washington state; and a grandson.
Information from the Office of International Pioneering and Marilyn Heaton