John Heffner: An Appreciation
July 30, 2019
Long Time Advocate Lost To Cancer
by Jim Mathews / President and CEO
Only two weeks ago, John D. Heffner and I were sitting at our usual DC lunch spot -- the Northern Italian Osteria Bibiana about a block from our offices -- talking about how we might find creative ways to make Amtrak better, improving the food, the service and the rolling stock. A railroad attorney by trade, John was also a relentless and passionate passenger-rail advocate. I was stunned to learn yesterday that he died suddenly this weekend from complications stemming from treatment for recently diagnosed throat cancer. Our cause has lost one of its strongest voices.
When I started at Rail Passengers nearly five years ago, John quickly reached out and offered his experience and advice...as well as a regular reoccuring "lunch date" to share what he saw as he rode the Network throughout the country. He was generous with his time and his insights, as well as with his wit and humor.
He believed very strongly in Amtrak, in the National Network, and in ways that public-private partnerships could enhance both.
A Directors' Circle member, he also believed very strongly in the work we do at the Rail Passengers Association, and was always willing to lend an ear, an opinion or help with a project or event.
Services are being held for John at 10 am on Wednesday, July 31, in the sanctuary at Beth El Congregation in Alexandria, VA, where he and his wife Judy live. I know you'll join me in sending prayers and condolences to the family as we mourn the loss of our friend and ally.
"The National Association of Railroad Passengers has done yeoman work over the years and in fact if it weren’t for NARP, I'd be surprised if Amtrak were still in possession of as a large a network as they have. So they've done good work, they're very good on the factual case."
Robert Gallamore, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University and former Federal Railroad Administration official, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University
November 17, 2005, on The Leonard Lopate Show (with guest host Chris Bannon), WNYC New York.