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 C. and Leslie M. 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.
EDUCATION: 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.
Although he left Kansas permanently in 1959, his wife, Rosemary, always said, you can take the boy out of Kansas, but you can’t take Kansas out of the boy.” He stayed in close contact with friends and family in Kansas, returned for frequent visits, and was a “Jayhawk” forever (Rock-chalk-Jay-hawk).
Luckey returned to school in the 1990’s-2000’s, attending Weber State University (WSU), following his retirement from Thiokol Corporation. He completed over 100 credit hours of science, art, and humanities courses, (e.g., in geology, physics, anthropology, history, philosophy, English literature, and theater), and finished an Art History Minor. “…just couldn’t get enough of that ‘learnin’ stuff’.”
MILITARY SERVICE: 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 primary assignment was supplying torpedoes for the Atlantic Fleet. His collateral duty was as Ground Defense Company Commander of approximately 200 men. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Lieutenant JG.
EMPLOYMENT: Although Luckey had worked summer jobs as a student (e.g., for Continental Oil Co.), his civilian career really 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 had multiple plants across the U.S. and Mexico, and manufactured a variety of chemical products, primarily those used in agriculture (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides). He held several positions while at Stauffer – as Chemical Engineer, as Manufacturing Manager of multiple plants, and as Director of Safety and Loss Control. This necessitated that he traveled frequently across the country and Mexico, and moved his place of residence multiple times 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. Once again, his job required that he constantly conduct site visits of the various 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, later Cordant, ATK (Alliant), and others before Northrop Grumman.
Lastly, he worked parttime as an Adjunct Professor in Theatre (particularly Musical Theatre), teaching classes for WSU’s Department of Performing Arts.
PERSONAL INTERESTS AND ACTIVITIES: Luckey had highly diverse interests and activities across his lifetime because he loved novelty. He was always willing to try something new, be it different foods, places, people, ideas, or activities. His personal “rule” was ‘do not return the same way he went, ’whenever possible.
Perhaps he would have selected the following as his top three life-long interests: (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 the 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. He was especially fond of musical theater, but he also enjoyed singing in church choirs, and when he arrived in Utah, he sang in the chorus of Utah Opera for two seasons. Later, he 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 downtown Ogden. Following retirement from Thiokol, he became an adjunct professor in WSU’s Department of Performing Arts, particularly in the Musical Theatre Program.
Luckey’s interests and activities in sports began early especially because of his father, who refereed at regional high school basketball and football games. Leslie would occasionally take Luckey with him and spend time talking about sports and encouraging him to listen to professional games on the radio. Luckey played basketball and football in junior and senior high school, and by attending KU (with its history of James Naismith – the founder of American basketball), this further added to his fascination. But it was running that seemed to capture his passion. He was on the track team in high school where he learned mostly short-distance competition (e.g., “100-yard dash”). Later in his life 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 over the years.
With regard to travel, Luckey visited major cities and places in all 50 states of the country and internationally traveled to countries across nearly all continents of the world. Besides vacations and travel for work, he participated in many study abroad programs provided by universities, museums, and travel institutions. He felt travel was absolutely joyful, eye-opening, and enriching to his life, nourishing his wanderlust for exploration and adventure.
FAMILY: Luckey married Judith McDowell in 1964, 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. He appreciated and encouraged their own individuality, and enthusiastically supported whatever they found exciting and important in their lives.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Luckey believed it was essential to be an active participant and volunteer in the many communities where he lived. He typically joined choirs, civic groups, theater or acting groups, and served on many boards and committees whenever possible. 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.
RECOGNITION: Luckey received many awards and recognition during his lifetime. His two recent favorites were receiving Emporia High School’s Hall of Fame Award in 2018, and The Egyptian Theatre Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
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.