The Heitzman family poses outside their Pennington home last Sunday after the graduation of the 12th and youngest child, David, from Notre Dame High school. At top are parents Ed and Henrietta Heitzman;second row, from left, are David, Christopher, Joseph, Ed, John, Eric and Tim; and bottom row, from left, Mary Heitzman, Theresa Bowers, Kate Page, Anne Heitzman and Claire Radice.
LAWRENCE -When David Heitzman began high school four
years ago, he had plenty of shoes to fill. Specifically, the 22 shoes
of his 11 brothers and sisters.
Last Sunday, following in the footsteps of Ed, Theresa, Eric, Claire, Kate, Tim, Joe, John, Chris, Mary and Anne, David became the 12th and final member of the Heitzman family to graduate from Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville.
Principal Barry E. Breen recognized the Heitzman family for this unique achievement with a surprisepresentation at the school's baccalaureate ceremony June 13.
According to Director of Public Relations Brenda Riley, Notre Dame graduates traditionally present a rose to their parents at the ceremony to thank them for the many things they have done for them.
"With David's gift of a rose, Mrs. Heitzman was going to fill out her vase of (a dozen) roses," Riley said.
To commemorate the event, the school presented David's parents, Edward and Henrietta Heitzman, with a Lenox vase and had each of the 12 children put a live rose in the vase at the end of the ceremony.
Henrietta Heitzman said receiving the final rose at the baccalaureate evoked mixed emotions.
"I was very excited. But I felt really sad, and I felt sad (Sunday), saying goodbye to the teachers, too," she said. "You have that many children and you just know every year or so we'll have another graduation. At the graduation party, it hit me that this was actually the end."
THROUGHOUT their continuous 24 year run at Notre
Dame, the Heitzman children brought a presence to the school that left
a lasting impression on teachers and administrators.
"They were raised with a commitment to anything they participated in," said school nurse Bernice Tattory, who knew 10 members of the Heitzman dozen.
"They have tremendous integrity, a tremendous sense of responsibility, and are tremendously intelligent," added Vice Principal Mary Liz Ivins. "I credit their parents for raising 12 kids so consistently in today's world - to be such great kids."
AP English teacher Karen Henkel described another common trait. "The most outstanding thing that I see about them is the attitude that they have," Henkel said. "Even though they had these many things going for them, they were blessed with humility and a wonderful temperament."
Dean of Academics Mary Ann Liptak was equally impressed by the Heitzmans in her 24 years at Notre Dame.
"It's nice to see them with the diversity of careers and interests, and yet there is a common bond that they share," Liptak said.
"They share a personal integrity, and there is a religious integrity that exists as a bond that captures the essence of the Heitzman family," she said, adding, "They were stellar people and stellar students. I was honored to know them."
David said he never worried about any expectations that may have descended through the decades and come to rest on his shoulders. But even without that distinct pressure to perform, he comfortably lived up to his siblings' standard of excellence at the school.
A NATIONAL Merit Commended Scholar - and Edward J.
Bloustein Distinguished Scholar, David played varsity football for two
years, ran track for four years, and served as an integral member of the
school's Math League for four years.
In his final year at Notre Dame, David served as president of the National Honor Society and received scholar- athlete awards from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Inc., Delaware Valley Chapter. He also became the fourth Heitzman - following Joe, John and Mary - to win the school's Father John D'Onofrio Annual Scholar Athlete Award.
And to top off all the Heitzmans' achievements, David addressed his fellow classmates at graduation as class salutatorian.
This fall, he will pursue a degree in computer engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm all of my brothers and sisters put together," David said. "All of my interests are from different parts of my family."
Alike in many ways but also unique individuals, David's brothers and sisters have gone on from Notre Dame to cover a. variety of professional fields. Their many occupations include computer engineering, computer programming, physical therapy, child care, teaching and cabinetmaking.
NINE OF THE Heitzman children have graduated from
college and two are currently enrolled. Two of them have master's
degrees, one is in medical school and another is pursuing his doctorate
in psychology. Four are married and three are parents.
And despite having to travel from as far away as California and Idaho to attend David's graduation, all the Heitzmans describe their family as very close.
"We've had nothing but blessings, and maybe it's because (when Henrietta and I were married) we just said we'd take what God gave us," Edward Heitzman said.
"I'm very proud of all my children," added Henrietta Heitzman.
While David's graduation marks the end of an era, Notre Dame faculty members might not find themselves "Heitzman-less" for long - the family's next generation already is approaching high school age.
According to Edward Heitzman, Theresa's first son could be there in four years. "She has six (children) so far, so it'd be a real wave," he said.