Christopher Neal Heinlein was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, a small seaside city, on October 14, 1974, the only child of Terrence and Andrea Heinlein. He and his parents lived in the coastal towns of Marblehead and Swampscott during his early childhood. As a little boy, Chris spent most of his waking hours drawing fanciful pictures with crayons, markers, pencils, and pens, sculpting elaborate food dishes from clay for his cats, and painting on his mother’s hand-me-down easel that had been constructed years earlier by his grandfather. Chris also played year round on local beaches with his friends, chasing waves and gulls, and scouting for scalloped shells and seaglass to build collections.
When Chris was ready to begin primary school, he and his parents moved to Newton, a community closer to Boston. Here, playing baseball, acting in school and camp plays, and writing poems and stories filled with action supplanted his verve for drawing, sculpting, and painting.
During the summer prior to the fourth grade, Chris moved with his parents to San Luis Obispo, California where they lived for two years while his father taught architecture at a state university. Chris’s fourth grade class performed a terrific version of The Wizard of Oz (he was Professor Marvel) for the entire county. The production was videotaped, and later each student in the class was given his/her own video to keep. Chris and his classmates endlessly watched and critiqued their performances for many months thereafter.
Back in Newton and in junior high school, Chris began to film and narrate holiday family gatherings with his grandfather’s camcorder, and when his parents purchased their own, he and his friends filmed their every-day lives at home, in the neighborhood, and at school. At the same time, Chris and his friends began to write and act in small screenplays, to compose and sing songs, and film themselves while doing both. These pastimes continued throughout high school for Chris and his friends, along with a developing pleasure in helping others by participating in the Walk for Hunger, donating money to funds for the homeless, and planting gardens in inner city neighborhoods.
When Chris entered the University of Wisconsin as a freshman in 1992, he had his heart set on a career in communication arts. Sometime into his first semester, he also concluded that he was a Midwesterner by nature, though he had lived only on either coast.
Chris missed his friends from Wisconsin (and a girlfriend from Minnesota) when he returned home for the summer of 1993, so they planned a week’s visit together to begin the Fourth of July Weekend. It was on this visit that Chris died in a boating accident while waterskiing with his friends on the Fox River in DePere, Wisconsin.
As Chris’s parents, we will grieve always, our son’s loss. It is our great sorrow that he did not have the chance to graduate from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Communication Arts and that neither he, nor we, had the chance to get to know the Midwest. We hope that another young man or a young woman from the East Coast with Chris’s qualities—joie de vivre, love of family and friends, creativity, humor, and kindness—will have the chance to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison and graduate with a degree in Communication Arts with the help of the Christopher Neal Heinlein Scholarship Fund.