A longtime resident of Park Ridge, he died Thursday [March 20, 1997] in a Greenbrae, Calif., hospital.
In 1994, in recognition of his invention's impact on reducing automobile accidents, he was named Inventor of the Year by the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago.
Ronald A. Sandler, the association member who nominated him for the award, wrote: "A principal aspect of his invention was the discovery that ordinary plastic [acrylic], which, although relatively soft, could be used on the roadway even though subject to the conflicting effects of tire wiping and abrasion. The significance to highway users was early recognized by various publications of numerous state highway departments that began to adopt and use the Heenan pavement marker."
The first use was in California in 1963. Because of problems caused by snowplows in Snow Belt states, he developed a more abrasion-resistant front surface for the reflectors and a special casing to hold them in place when a snowplow scraped at them. The result was a marker that could be used anywhere.
Mr. Heenan graduated in 1940 from the Armour Institute (now the Illinois Institute of Technology) and worked for Niles-based Stimsonite and its predecessor company for 49 years.
Survivors include two sones, John and Thomas; two daughters, Susan O'Connell and Barbara Ma; and three grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service were pending.
You are my hero, Mr. Heenan. You've saved my life many times. Whenever a new road is going in, I hope and pray that your markers will be embedded to make it a safe one.
Rest in peace.