Longtime Hua Hin resident Constance “Connie” Heinecke sadly passed away on November 7th at the age of 98. Connie moved to Hua Hin in 1989 with her husband Roy who died 4 years later of cancer. Connie was very active in the community and could be seen regularly in the company of Andrew Stock’s, her “adopted” grandson. For 10 years Connie and Andrew had lunch together daily at different restaurants in the Hua Hin area. In 2014 HOT Magazine profiled her amazing life and in honor of Connie we are proud to feature her article once again.
(Reprinted from HOT Magazine’s June 2014 issue)
By any measure, 95 year old Constance “Connie” Heinecke has led an amazing adventure filled life. From living across the street from John F. Kennedy in Washington DC to being tour guide to Marilyn Monroe in Japan to entertaining world famous boxer Jack Dempsey in her and her husband’s Hong Kong home. Did I mention that while living in Malta where they had a home for 7 years they were given just 24 hours to leave the country because the leftist government believed them to be CIA spies?
Connie grew up in Philadelphia during the depression in a family of 7. She inherited her father’s sense of humor and was known as the “crazy one” in the family. Her memories of the depression were the soup kitchens. Her first job was at age nine selling peanut brittle her mother made to office workers in the newspaper section of town. The candy was individually wrapped with wax paper. Because the candy was sticky her customers complained that the wax paper stuck to the candy. The quick thinking youth’s reply was that you were supposed to eat the paper, just like the Japanese candies that were popular at the time which were wrapped in rice paper. Even though it was 86 years ago Connie can still name off all the stops on the train that took her from her home to the Philadelphia office towers she sold to.
When Connie was 17 a girl from her school came by her house with a boy she was seeing and the boy’s brother. The brother’s name was Roy Heinecke. Connie and Roy fell in love and were married in 1942. Neither one of them had much money even though both of them worked. Connie’s first job out of High School was working as a telephone operator while Roy was a U.S. Marine earning just 20 dollars a month. One fateful night Roy won 40 dollars in a poker game and they decided to use that money to get married.
While Roy was off to war Connie lived in Philadelphia and then California. They had two children, Skip born in 1943 and Bill who was born 6 years later. When the war ended Roy was stationed in Japan. Roy told her not to come due to the bad conditions at the time but headstrong Connie had her own ideas. Bravely she sold all they owned and along with her two young boys boarded an Oiler ship for the 35 day trip, unannounced, to be with her husband in Japan.
The crew on the ship quickly became enamored with the boys and once made a hook from a coat hanger and tied a line to it. They told young Bill to cast the line over the side of the ship to catch fish. The line was just long enough to reach the galley below where one of the kitchen workers would affix a dead fish to the hook and give it a yank. Bill would pull up the line and be thrilled with his “catch.” It was a game that brought much laughter to those aboard.
While in Japan Connie worked for the U.S. Armed Forces Newspaper writing a regular column . One day she was asked to escort the newly married Marilyn Monroe around a military hospital. Marilyn had been flown in to cheer up the troops who were recuperating there. Connie has colorful stories to tell of this day.
When Roy retired from the Military he went to work for the United States Information Agency where he had his initial training in Washington DC. It was at this time that they lived on N street, directly across the street from the then Senator John F. Kennedy.
Roy’s first foreign posting was to Hong Kong at the U.S. Embassy where they stayed for five years. In those days it would take 21 days to travel by boat from San Francisco to Hong Kong and they made that trip several times. Connie loved their time in Hong Kong and entertained at their home frequently. Their very first dinner party in their Hong Kong home was for world famous boxer Jack Dempsey and his wife. During this time Connie enjoyed working for a Hong Kong Tourist magazine and then as the first Asian sales rep for Newsweek Magazine.
From Hong Kong they moved to Kuala Lumpur for several years and then moved to Bangkok in 1963 where Roy took a job as a war correspondent for Voice of America working out of Saigon and Connie went back to work for Newsweek. Young son Bill was 14 when they arrived in Bangkok and finished his schooling during this period.
In 1971 Roy and Connie decided it was time to retire so they moved back to the States settling in Palm Beach Florida. After spending so much time in Asia however it was just a few years before they decided they wanted to return. They moved back to Bangkok to be close to their son Bill who while still only in his mid 20’s was making a name for himself in the business world.
While holidaying in Pattaya, Connie and Roy became friends with a family from London with the last name of Stocks, they were in the hotel business. The Stocks had a young son named Andrew who took an immediate shining to Connie. Andrew adored his own grandmother who had passed away very young and he saw a substitute in Connie. Through the years Connie has become Andrew’s “step-grandma” and they have developed a very special bond, so much so that for the last ten years Andrew and Connie have been meeting daily to have lunch together.
Connie and Roy stayed in Bangkok until 1976 when they moved to a beautiful villa in Malta overlooking the Mediterranean. She and Roy loved their time there and made many friends. Life was wonderful until one fateful day in 1981 when the leftist government accused them of being CIA spies and gave them just 24 hours to leave the country. 24 hours did not give them enough time to pack all their belongings but friends helped and most was retrieved.
From Malta the couple moved to Santa Barbra in California to be close to their oldest son Skip who was a movie executive at 20th Century Fox. Through Skip, Connie and Roy became close to Hollywood celebrities including Ronald Regan and his wife Nancy. Even when the Regan’s moved to the White House they would continue to send Connie and Roy a card on their anniversary, memento’s she still has. Knowing Presidents seems to run in the family, Connie’s grandfather was the personal photographer to Teddy Roosevelt. Connie loved to work and while in Santa Barbara, a very exclusive community, she set about buying and selling houses always turning a nice profit on each one.
In 1989 while on holiday in Thailand their son Skip had a serious scuba diving accident, so serious that Connie and Roy came back to Thailand to be with their son. Thankfully Skip recovered and returned to the States. For Connie and Roy however, after living in 54 homes in 7 countries they decided to settle down once and for all in Hua Hin.
Sadly, Roy passed away from cancer in 1993, Connie remained in Hua Hin and still lives here to this day. After Roy’s passing, Connie and her son Bill set up the Roy E. Heinecke Foundation which supports the less fortunate children throughout Thailand who have outstanding records of performance. Each year, the foundation gives scholarships to 449 students which help support their education from early learning stages through to graduation.
On Connie’s 90th birthday the family threw a large birthday party for her with over 450 guests. At the party they raised $225,000 U.S. Dollars for the foundation. Connie, who has always been a great joke teller, decided to put together a joke book of some of her favorites with all monies going to the foundation. Her Book “A Connoisseur’s Choice of Jokes” received rave reviews. Connie proudly states that even Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart has a copy.
When asked what her happiest memory is, Connie doesn’t hesitate in saying that her happiest memory was of her wedding day. She then added “I’m the luckiest girl in the world, I’ve lived a wonderful life”.
Connie’s son Skip has retired from the movie business and now lives in Ireland collecting cars. He and his wife Kathleen have one son Christopher who lives in Los Angeles
Son Bill is the Billionaire founder of Minor International. He and his wife Kathy live in Bangkok and have two sons, John who lives in Bangkok and David who lives in Portland Oregon, both have two children.