By Patricia Funt Oxman
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — On January 31, a memorial was held for beloved antiques dealer Fred Heintz at the Lyndhurst Carriage House. The Westchester Historical Society provided the beautiful venue and the food and drink for the 85 or so people who attended. The room was filled with heartfelt love for this very special guy who died in an accident at his home in Bronxville, N.Y., last October 8. The crowded room could have been filled many times over with people who wanted to be there to remember him.
As a longtime friend, I introduced the speakers. As they spoke, common threads kept reappearing: Fred’s humor and fun-loving spirit, his loyalty to his friends, his love of family, his energy and drive, and his keen interest in and broad knowledge of antiques and historic places. There was plenty of good-natured laughter, too, as several people noted things like how Fred could always find a good parking spot or his habit of calling people “dear” — even when it didn’t always seem to fit.
Fred — Frederick Patrick Heintz — was born on January 22, 1953, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Margarette and William Heintz. His younger sister, Winifred (Winnie), came along about four years later. His father was in sales (everything from beauty products to cars and trucks) and his mother taught various subjects at the high school level for many years starting in the wartime forties. She later got her master’s degree and was a high school guidance counselor for 22 years, as well.
Fred attended high school in Euclid, a suburb of Cleveland. Even as a teenager he was interested in antiques. An early purchase he made was a heavily carved wooden headboard for his room. He took some teasing from his schoolmates for it — it wasn’t exactly “cool” in the 1960s — but Fred was already developing his great eye and he knew what he liked.
Fred graduated from Allegheny College in 1975 with a major in English. While he was studying there he made the acquaintance of a Mrs Unger, who owned an antiques shop in his college town of Meadville, Penn. He visited her often and learned a lot from this dealer. He kept her friendship for the rest of her very long life.
Fred then tried one year of elementary school teaching back in Ohio, but it was not the right fit for him and soon he made a move to New York City. He secured a job with Sotheby’s in the late 1970s, working in the European furniture department. By now, his knowledge and interest in antiques was growing strong. His mother recalls how he managed to buy a pair of beautiful Belter chairs from Sotheby’s and carried them carefully home in the front seat of his car. His girlfriend at the time had to sit in the back seat.
Like a lot of young people at Sotheby’s, he realized that, instead of making money for the auction house, he could use his knowledge to make money for himself. And thus became the start of his long career as an antiques dealer.
Fred was an incredible dealer. His vast knowledge and great eye helped him find amazing treasures and he was always a magnet for other dealers. His constantly changing stock, the quality and interest of the things he found, and the profit he left for fellow dealers were some of the reasons he was often mobbed at shows. His fun-loving nature made the transactions even more appealing. Sometimes he had so many buyers he gave out numbers to people like a butcher shop — their “Fred Number,” he called it.
I met Fred first at the Park Avenue Armory shows in New York City in the early 1980s. We both started our careers as antiques dealers around the same time. Our booths were in the same row at the show and I would always go by his booth on my way to the front of the show. As I passed by, I never knew what to expect. One time I saw him down on both knees begging someone to buy something, everyone laughing in hysterics.
Fred participated in countless antiques shows over the years and, for a period of time, he also ran a small group shop in Darien, Conn., in an old bank building. Fred’s own space was in the vault! But, for most of his dealing career, Fred was constantly on the road driving in huge circles from one dealer to the next — making purchases and keeping up friendships and acquaintances everywhere he went.
Fred was just as solid a friend as one could ever get. Loving and caring, he was always there for his friends and family. He visited people who were sick, helped people who were going through a rough patch, and visited the older antiques dealers who were starting to be forgotten, but not by Fred.
Fred always had a special place in his heart for his beautiful, accomplished daughter Sally. He was filled with pride whenever he spoke of her. And his mother, Margarette — to whom he spoke everyday — was his rock. The conversations I have had with her since Fred’s passing make it clear what is so very special about her.
I enjoyed more than 30 years of knowing Fred. Over the years, our two families enjoyed so many great times together. In recent times, he would come by our house on the spur of the moment armed with great salads for what he called our salad lunches. And my husband, Ken, and I did many of the same antiques shows that Fred did. It was so nice to check in on each other and share a good show story, or grab breakfast before the show.
Fred was a close friend, fellow dealer and — cliché or not — he was a gentleman and a scholar. I always looked forward to seeing him. He was such a fun-loving and just plain loving guy. A “Fred-less” world is a real challenge. I know I join a very long list of people who will miss him so very much, but we can all celebrate having known him.
The Westchester Historical Society remembers Fred so fondly. He was as active member of the board for nearly a decade. He was vice president for four years and had just agreed to chair the society’s development committee. In his honor, the society is starting a Fred Heintz Memorial Fund. This fund will provide trips for people to discover the rich heritage Fred loved to explore so much.
Contributions in Fred’s memory can be sent to the Westchester County Historical Society, 2199 Saw Mill River Road, Elmsford NY 10523.