In the Navy we always wish someone “fair winds and following seas.” And when you have that, virtually anyone can be at the helm of the ship. But when the weather kicks up; the sea swirls in unpredictable patterns; and the waves reached 20 to 30 feet, the Navy always gives the helm to the most experienced helmsman.
In the early years of the 21st century, The American Legion Chapel Hill Post 6 was virtually bound to run aground. They had entered some very rough seas and when they searched for the right helmsman to lead the Post, they found Lee Heavlin. He was a Navy Master Chief with plenty of experience and leadership ability. The Chapel Hill Post was floundering and was out of money, so Lee accepted the challenge and took it upon himself to run for Post Commander so that he could “right the ship.”
There was not a single day that Lee and his wife Yolanda were not at the Post preparing it for the next Executive Committee meeting or the next membership meeting. He and his wife were right out of H.M.S. Pinafore, “they cleaned the windows, and they swept the floors, and polished all the handles of the big front door.” What a team!
During the next four years, Lee would spend his time at the Post determining how best to build back the treasury and keep the Post going until the Post could find an alternative method of raising money. The membership thought about the traditional methods of raising money; barbecues; cookouts; pancake breakfasts; dances and the common money-raising venues, but the Post was old and was in great need of repair. The roof leaked, the air conditioning was problematic, the interior needed painting, and the kitchen appliances had seen their best days 55 years ago. It was all he could do to keep the lights on and the water running. In those very lean years, the Post did not even have a budget. What was the use of having a budget when there was no money to budget? Lee was extremely frugal and relied on volunteers and members who had electrical, heating, and air-conditioning expertise. When maintenance and equipment issues came up, he sought out Legion members for their assistance. He was extremely successful and had thousands of dollars in repairs done at no cost to the members or Post. He often covered equipment and new service personally. He used his innate business and technical skills to provide the Post with website services, a Post Website, communications support, and public relations services to build a strong American Legion image and presence within the Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County, and the state of North Carolina. Thanks to Lee Heavlin’s leadership, the Post was able to “hang on” and start to thrive while it developed a plan of action to sell our aged Post and rebuild. His diligence and steadfast leadership kept the Post operational until it could be sold to the Town of Chapel Hill. He was the catalyst for Chapel Hill Post 6 being able to build the most modern and unique American Legion facility in the United States.
Lee Heavlin was not only active with the American Legion Chapel Hill Post 6, he was also then concurrently an American Legion District Vice Commander; won numerous awards as an IT specialist and communicator; and was selected as the Department of North Carolina Adjutant of the year in 2019. Lee was also the Commander, Chapel Hill VFW Post 9100; a VFW District Commander; VFW Department of North Carolina web master; a founding member and officer in the Orange County Veterans Memorial Committee and Corporation; and a leader in the Knights of Columbus at the St. Thomas More Catholic Church. Lee Heavlin’s dedication to all things that support our service men and women and the veterans of our community has also earned him local recognition as a WCHL Chapel Hill Hometown Hero, and not just once, but twice. It is because of Lee Heavlin’s untiring devotion to the Post and love for his fellow members that he has earned a special place in the history of American Legion Post 6 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.