Although the Heilmans had recently moved into the townhomes on Ivy Lake, we walked through Lynchburg history. They had lived in the area for several years before they moved away — only to move back.
For me, it was a stressful situation. The COVID-19 shutdown regulations were constantly changing so, I wore a facemask during the interview for everyone’s comfort.
I found the cloth distracting and claustrophobic. Thankfully, the mood didn’t translate into my images from the day.
Meet Your Neighbors: Jerry and Rose Heilman
Originally Published in Life in the Ivy
Jerry and Rose Heilman have traveled around the world to come back to Ivy Hill.
Wisconsin natives, Jerry and Rose met in high school and married shortly after graduating. They have four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren — living throughout the continental United States.
Jerry jokes, “We lived in 8 states over my 42 year career. We had four children — in 4 different states — but, they just kept finding us!”
Jerry’s career in broadcasting prompted the Heilman’s journey across America, starting in the 1960s.
“My childhood was spent on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and I was just absolutely fascinated with my transistor radio. At bedtime, I would listen to ball games under the covers until my mother told me to turn it off.”
In his youth, Jerry dreamed of becoming the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers. After high school, Jerry attended Brown Institute of Broadcasting and Electronics (Brown College) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Upon completing his degree, he started in small market radio.
On November 22, 1963, the senior staff members were out to lunch, leaving young Jerry live on the air — alone. Jerry remembers, “I would do what they called rip-and-read. You go to the teletype and give the news between segments.”
On that day, Jerry saw the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
“I called the news director. He basically told me to get on the air and announce it immediately,” Jerry recollects. “So, I broke that news to my own little radio market.”
After a few years in radio, he moved into the television market — focusing on sales and management. In 1990, Jerry took a position as the Vice President and General Manager of WSET bringing the Heilman family to Central Virginia.
“We immediately noticed how friendly the people are in Greater Lynchburg. Not that other areas aren’t kind but, Lynchburg is warm and the people are so engaged.” Jerry says.
The Heilmans moved into Sailview Drive, making Ivy Hill their home for about six years. They look back fondly on that time.
“I had a wonderful experience with WSET,” Jerry laughs, adding with a smile, “Virginia’s Thirteen!”
After WSET, Jerry established a new TV station in Birmingham, Alabama with Allbritton Communications Company. After 42 years in broadcasting, the Heilmans decided to retire in Ocala, Florida.
“When people would ask me how I liked broadcasting, I would say, ‘…it sure beats working!’” Jerry explains with a smile.
Around the World
In Ocala, the Heilmans enjoyed the moderate weather and rural landscape. Although Jerry had retired, Rose continues her career as a tour director to this day.
“I can work from anywhere with an airport,” Rose says. She started the profession in 1978, keeping up with the changing travel industry.
“We used to do bus tours,” Rose recalls. “Now we fly all over the world.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is Rose’s love for the “City of Lights” — Paris, France.
“It’s not like New York City — where it feels like a canyon with skyscrapers on each side of the street,” Rose explains. “Paris has wide boulevards and sidewalk cafes that bring a different energy.”
Rose has visited Paris dozens of times, both leading tours and for her own pleasure.
Another French location, Normandy, holds a special place for both Rose and Jerry. They appreciate the connection to the Bedford Boys, as told in the book and memorialized on the beach. Rose notes that the French guides mention the town by name during tours.
Drawn Back to Virginia
Among their adventures, the Heilmans found themselves drawn back to Virginia.
“We never got those Blue Ridge Mountains out of our system,” Jerry proclaims. “Virginia was by far our favorite state. So, we decided to come back.”
They returned in October 2019 and started renovations on their townhome on Ivy Lake. They moved into the space in February of this year. Currently, they’re updating the exterior and landscaping as the spring weather allows.
During the past 23 years, they have noticed how much the area has developed.
“The Kroger and those shops weren’t here,” Rose recalls.
Pointing to the rolling mountains outside their wall of windows, Bob says, “The one thing that didn’t change was the view.”
“Maybe the hills grew,” Rose laughs. “I find they’re much harder to walk up than 23 years ago!”
The Ivy Hill community is still welcoming as the Heilmans both greet old friends and meet new neighbors. In the past, moving meant starting over. Returning to Ivy Hill was a chance to reconnect.