C. Luckey Heath
1936 — 2023
Luckey liked to say he was CONCEIVED on “Black Sunday” (in April 1935 - the day of the worst dust storm of the Dust Bowl). His family was then living in Texhoma (a border town between Texas and Oklahoma’s panhandle). He was BORN on January 30, 1936, to Sarah and Leslie Heath after the family had successfully relocated east to Emporia, Kansas, enabling Leslie to become the town’s Assistant Postmaster. Luckey was the 3rd child of the family’s four: Marilyn, Joe, Luckey, and Ross. Luckey’s name (spelled with an “-e”) intrigued people: he was named after his great uncle, Luckey. Emporia was a railroad hub, connecting the Union Pacific (Southern Branch) and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroads; ironically, much like Ogden, Utah, the hub for the Transcontinental Railroad, where he was to live the last years of his life. On April 20, 2023, at age 87, Charles Luckey Heath took his last breath and passed gently away with family members present.
Luckey grew up in Emporia, attending K through 12 grades at the public schools and his freshman year at College of Emporia. He then transferred to the University of Kansas (KU), earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering, and stayed an extra year to take graduate classes in Chemical Engineering and KU’s Theater Program. He later completed Officer Candidate School in Virginia for the U.S. Navy.
Luckey served as Ordnance Officer in Charge of an Advanced Underseas Weapons Unit stationed at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for three years. His collateral duty was as Ground Defense Company Commander of approximately 200 men. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Lieutenant JG.
Luckey’s civilian career began in the 1960’s as a Chemical Engineer at Stauffer Chemical Company in Delaware. He worked for Stauffer (now Solvay Chemicals Group), for 26 years. The company manufactured primarily chemical products used in agriculture (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides). He became Manufacturing Manager of multiple plants, and Director of Safety and Loss Control. He traveled frequently across the country and Mexico, and moved his place of residence across five states over the years (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut). He used to say he was a “Corporate Gypsy.”
That same pattern of travel continued when he shifted to his second major company of employment in the 1980’s — becoming Corporate Director of Safety and Environmental Affairs for Thiokol Chemical Corporation (now Northrop Grumman), then headquartered in Ogden, Utah. This aerospace industry manufactured solid rocket and missile fuel and motors. He conducted site visits of company plants across the country. His hiring followed the famous Space Shuttle Challenger incident, with Thiokol being required to find the best safety officer in the country at that time. He retired in the late 1990’s when the company transferred to Alcoa, Cordant, ATK, and later Northrop Grumman.
Upon retiring from Thiokol, he returned to school, attending Weber State University (WSU), and completed over 100 credit hours of science, art, and humanities courses. He also worked parttime as an Adjunct Professor in Musical Theatre, teaching classes for WSU’s Department of Performing Arts.
Luckey had highly diverse interests and activities because he loved novelty — always willing to try something new. Perhaps his top three life-long interests were: (1) performing in live theatrical productions and musical events; (2) engaging in sports, both as participant and as spectator; and (3) loving to travel.
Luckey’s involvement in the Performing Arts was shaped early in his youth while in school and community plays and choirs. This carried forward to becoming a significant part of his life at College of Emporia and later at KU. While in the Navy he was appointed as Choir Director for the Protestant Church of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and joined the Guantanamo Bay Acting group, acting in several plays. Later, as he began his civilian career, he began acting (and occasionally directing) in theaters in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Utah as his residence changed due to work. He joined several acting groups, and it’s estimated that he performed roles in over 200 live and film productions across the years. When he arrived in Utah, he sang in the chorus of Utah Opera, performed in multiple productions staged at the Heritage Playhouse in Perry, Utah, then at Weber State University, and in Utah Musical Theater’s summer seasons at Peery’s Egyptian Theatre in Ogden.
Luckey’s interests and activities in sports began early especially because of his father, who refereed at regional high school basketball and football games. Luckey played basketball and football in junior and senior high school, but it was running that seemed to capture his passion. He learned short-distance competition on the track team in high school (e.g., “100-yard dash”). Later, he took up long-distance running at a time when 10-K and marathon races were just becoming popular (the 1970’s and ’80’s). He belonged to running clubs and ran in the New York and Boston Marathons over a dozen times as well as many others across the country. He racked up a lot of trophies and ribbons for his efforts.
With regard to travel, Luckey visited major cities and places in all 50 states of the country and across nearly all continents of the world, and he participated in many study abroad programs. He felt travel was absolutely joyful, eye-opening, and enriching, nourishing his wanderlust for exploration and adventure.
In 1964, Luckey married Judith McDowell, and they raised three wonderful children (Annie, Charlie, and Sarah). They later divorced. In 1987, he married Nancy McLarnan, and they later divorced. After moving to Utah, he married Rosemary Conover, a professor of anthropology at WSU, and they bonded as true soulmates for nearly 32 enchanting years.
His three children and four grandchildren were his treasured priorities. They gave him great pride, happiness, and his main reason for living. Regardless of his heavy travel schedules and long distances apart, he stayed very close to them, being able to maintain an incredible rapport with each and a deep love felt by all.
Luckey believed it was essential to be an active participant wherever he lived. While in Utah, he served as President of the Egyptian Theatre Foundation during the restoration of the theater organ, served on the Executive Committee of the Ogden Symphony-Ballet Association, was a member of the Ogden Exchange Club, the Ogden Opera Guild, the Weber County Heritage Foundation, stayed a loyal member of the WSU Round Ball Club, Wildcat Club, and President’s Society, and maintained membership in several local and state museums and centers for public education.
He is survived by his wife, Rosemary Conover; his three children: Anne H. Navin (William), Charles L. Heath, Jr., and Sarah E. Heath (Anthony); his four grandchildren: Daisy, Finn, Camden, and Tatum; a sister-in-law, Lila; a brother-in-law, David; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents: Sarah C. and Leslie M. Heath; his siblings: Marilyn Webster, Joe Heath, and Ross Heath; siblings-in-law: Howard, Barbara, Stephen, and Marilyn; and a niece: Teri.
Graveside Services were held in the Salt Lake City Cemetery followed by a Memorial Celebration of Luckey’s life on Saturday, May 6, 2023, with family members in attendance.
In lieu of flowers sent to the family, please consider donating to the Luckey Heath “Theatre Faculty Support Fund” at Weber State University. Contact: WSU’s Development Office – Dept. 4018 / 1265 Village Drive / Ogden, UT 84408; or call: (801) 626-6138; or email your gift to: give.weber.edu/luckey
Funeral services entrusted to Lindquist’s Ogden Mortuary.
Condolences may be shared at: www.lindquistmortuary.com.