Douglas Heller, 57, Springfield Twp. commissioner and historian

Douglas J. Heller
Douglas J. Heller
Posted: May 29, 2012

Douglas J. Heller was instrumental in developing ushistory.org, a website that hundreds of publications have turned to for details about Revolutionary War events.

National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition regularly credited "Doug Heller from Flourtown" for providing brain-twisting word puzzles.

And as a commissioner in Montgomery County’s Springfield Township, he organized efforts to save the historic Black Horse Inn from demolition and introduced legislation to ban discrimination in township housing and employment on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Mr. Heller, 57, died Friday, May 25, at the Keystone House in Wyndmoor, seven months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

His son Greg said his father was known primarily for making use of the Internet to increase awareness of American history and historic sites in the Philadelphia area.

"He believed very much in the value of the media to promote causes," Greg Heller said. He noted that journalists used his father’s websites for stories about the successful effort to have the National Parks Service memorialize the Center City site of the Presidents House, where George Washington and John Adams lived.

"With the Presidents House, the media just had to go to this website, and they found everything they needed," his son said.

In 2008, Mr. Heller was elected a Springfield Township commissioner, a post he held until early this year. To educate the public about the township, he developed hellerspringfield.com.

He also produced websites for the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Whitemarsh Foundation, Hope Lodge, and many other organizations.

His work also impacted politics far from Philadelphia.

Reporters called Mr. Heller after Carson, Calif., Mayor Jim Dear ordered the flag at City Hall there flown at half-staff to mourn Michael Jackson in 2009, prompting an outcry from veterans. Mr. Heller expressed concern about "trivialization of the flag," and Dear introduced an ordinance stripping himself and future Carson mayors of the power to lower the American flag.

On the ushistory.org website, Heller included details on the U.S. Congress Flag Code, a guide to showing respect for the flag. But Greg Heller said his father also "believed strongly in our First Amendment right to break the code" by burning the flag in protest. "He believed that it is precisely this right to freedom of expression that gives the flag such profound symbolic significance."

In addition to his son, Mr. Heller is survived by his wife, Nancy; another son, Rob; a stepdaughter, Megan; his parents, Myra and Jack; and two sisters and a brother.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 28, at Congregation Or Hadash, 190 Camp Hill Rd., Fort Washington.

Donations may be made to ushistory.org/ IHA/donate.htm or Independence Hall Association, c/o Carpenter’s Hall, 320 Chestnut St., Philadelphia 19106.

Contact Mark Fazlollah at 215-854-5831 or mfazlollah@phillynews.com.

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