Richard “Dick” James Heckmann, former CEO of United States Filter, passed away from complications of multiple system atrophy at the age 76 on October 31, 2020 in his home in Rancho Mirage, California.
Dick is survived by his wife, Wendy Heckmann, and their daughters Mia and Madison. He also leaves behind his ex-wifeMary and their children Tom, Scott, Brock, Todd and Jessica and his nine grandchildren. He is also survived by his son Greg from a prior marriage.
Dick was born in St. Louis, Missouri on December 8, 1943 to Phil and Ruth Heckmann. Dick was a serial entrepreneur even as a child, working to plow snow off driveways in the winter and as a golf caddy in the summer. He planned to be a priest until a jet flew over his head and he felt he was destined to be a pilot instead. He joined the United States Air Force and fought bravely in the Vietnam War in 1965 and then attended the University of Hawaii and completed the Small Business Management Program at Harvard Business School.
He moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked as Associate Administrator for Finance and Investment of the Small Business Administration (SBA), where he was responsible for
small business lending and venture capital investments made by the United States government. He also served as the White House liaison for the SBA under the Carter Administration and was a former director of the Advisory Board of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Dick was the Founder of Tower Scientific Corporation, a prosthetics company, which he sold in 1977. He retired to Sun Valley, Idaho, to ski, and was elected the Mayor of Sun Valley in 1979.
Dick and his family moved to the Palm Springs area and he became a stockbroker. He set the record for highest trade volume in a single day in 1987. He was also Chairman of the Listed Company Advisory Committee of the New York StockExchange and a member of the Exchange’s Special Governance Committee.
He founded US Filter Corporation, a water filtration company,in 1990 and embarked on a series of 260 acquisitions aimed at building the world’s largest water treatment company. Nine years later, US Filter was acquired by Vivendi SA, an international water products group, for $6.2 billion.
He served as Executive Chairman of K2, Inc., a sporting good company, which he sold for $1.2 billion in 2007. He wasDirector and owner of Smith Goggles and a founding shareholder of Callaway Golf, Inc. He was the Chairman of Nuverra Environmental Solutions, Inc. He also founded the Heckmann International Center for Entrepreneurial Management, at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert Campus.
Dick was also an owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns basketball team. During his first year as a partner, the Suns acquired Steve Nash, and the team shot to the top of the Western Conference standings. Attending the games court side was a great joy to Dick and his family (but sometimes not the referees).
Dick would say his greatest achievement was the close-knit family that he leaves behind. A perfect Saturday afternoon for him would be hanging out with his children, with the grandchildren bopping around, watching a Notre Dame football game. He never missed a t-ball game, soccer game, wrestling match or football game for any of his children and was a great coach himself.
While being a great father, husband, and businessman, Dick also found time to mentor many high school children and young adults. He was very giving with his time and always ready for an in-depth conversation about how to succeed in life. His simple wisdom for teenagers embarking on a college career was to learn how to write effectively, communicate with anyone, read extensively and be comfortable speaking to a large group. His advice for starting a family was just as simple; it will be the best thing you ever did and appreciate every second of it.