- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2004

John W. Hechinger Sr., the man who created the District’s homegrown Hechinger Co. chain of hardware stores, died yesterday on his birthday at his Northeast home. He was 84.

A longtime business and civic leader in the District, Mr. Hechinger was appointed by President Johnson in 1967 as chairman of the first D.C. Council. He was an advocate of home rule.

The appointment replaced the three-member board of D.C. commissioners with a mayor-council style of government. Mr. Hechinger held the chairman’s post for two years.

He sought to revitalize neighborhoods devastated by the riots that followed the death of Martin Luther King.

He was named by President Carter in 1978 as an alternate U.S. representative to the 33rd session of the U.N. General Assembly.

“He lived a full life,” said son John W. Hechinger Jr. He described his father as “a multifaceted person and a dedicated family man.”

“He worked very closely for the things that would benefit this city,” John Jr. said.

During the tumultuous 1960s, Mr. Hechinger worked through rowdy public hearings. As the Vietnam War was raging, D.C. residents were concerned about federal money allocated for highways that would have split the city. Those debates and other challenges, he said, brought him closer to the people of the District.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, said the city has lost a “quintessential Washingtonian.”

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, said Mr. Hechinger believed in the city, invested in it, and worked for full and equal citizenship for its citizens.

She called him a “founding father” of the home rule movement in the District.

He also built his family’s business, the Hechinger Building Goods Co., into a multibillion-dollar corporation with more than 100 stores.

Hechinger Co. was founded in 1911 by his father, Sidney L. Hechinger. The first store opened in 1919.

He stepped down as chairman in 1996. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1999.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday at noon at the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

In place of flowers, friends are asked to make donations to the Brady Campaign, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Appleseed Foundation.

Mr. Hechinger is survived by his wife of 57 years, June Ross Hechinger of Washington; four children, Nancey Hechinger of New York, John W. Hechinger Jr. of Bethesda, S. Ross Hechinger of Washington and Sally Rudoy of Montclare, N.J.; a sister, Lois Hechinger England of Washington; 10 grandchildren and a great-grandson.

mThis article is based in part on wire service reports.

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