Richard Kenneth Heitzenrater

Richard Kenneth Heitzenrater, 80, passed away on Nov. 8, 2019, at Newport Hospital, Rhode Island.

He was the husband of Martha (Corsi) Heitzenrater, a Bristol, Rhode Island, native. When they married, he embraced the town of Bristol as his own.

Born in Pennsylvania, he was the son of Frederick and Leota (Grey) Heitzenrater.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children: Paul Gilstrap II and wife Kimberly, Kevin Gilstrap and wife Gina, Karen Zompa and husband Frederick Jr. and Bryan Heitzenrater. He also is the father of Richard, Ronald, William and Jennifer Heitzenrater. He is survived by two sisters, Muriel Grube and Patricia Martz. He was a loving and admired grandfather to 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mr. Heitzenrater graduated high school in Pennsylvania and then enlisted in the Navy. He proudly served his country in several duty stations around the world and aboard the USS Oglethorpe (AKA-100), the USS LaSalle (LPD-3) and the USS R K Turner (DLG-20).

In 1980, Richard transferred from active duty to fleet reserve after 23 years in the Navy. He was a Radioman Petty Officer 1st Class. He then began his second career in Newport, Rhode Island, as a civil servant working on the Trident Submarines until he reached the age of retirement.

He never forgot his roots in Punxsutawney. He loved and boasted to all about his childhood home and about the greatest weather prognosticator, Phil the groundhog.

A true patriot, he was proud to make Bristol, “the most patriotic town in America,” his home for the rest of his life. He faithfully and joyfully kept the tradition every year of attending the Bristol Fourth of July parade and celebrations with his family and friends. He loved his Mummers and the bagpipers.

He always shared his love for the Navy. He would swell with pride when his Navy brothers, in their crisp white uniforms, marched by to the tune of “Anchors Aweigh” played by the Navy Band.

Richard never met a stranger. If he met you once, he would remember you. If he met you twice, you were his friend.

He was both a long-time metal detecting enthusiast and an amateur ham radio operator who went by the call sign W1HTO.

Richard Kenneth Heitzenrater was a devoted family man, friend and patriot. He will forever and always be deeply loved and missed.

A graveside service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 12:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Chestnut Street, Bristol.

A celebration of Richard’s amazing life will follow at 1:30 p.m. at the Cup Defenders Association, 230 Wood St., Bristol. Family and friends are all welcome to attend and share stories.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: Bristol 4th of July Committee, PO Box 561, Bristol, RI 02809.

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