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‘Chief White Eagle’ remembered as friend of Tinley Park

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Wearing his headdress, then-Tinley Park resident Basil “Chief White Eagle” Heath received quite the welcome when he accompanied village officials to their sister city of Budingen, Germany, years ago.

“He was considered royalty by the royal house of England, so other countries treated him like royalty,” said Randy Tietz, chairman of the village’s sister city commission.

Village Clerk Pat Rea remembered how “the crowds flocked around him.”

Rea, Tietz and other longtime residents of Tinley Park have fond memories of Mr. Heath, who lived in the village from 1975 to 1990.

Mr. Heath, 93, died Monday in Rochester, Ind.

A member of the Mohawk tribe, he appeared in more than 30 movies “and always said that his good friend, John Wayne, had killed him at least seven times,” Rea said Thursday.

Mr. Heath also appeared in numerous commercials and on a children’s show on public television.

Mr. Heath, who was born March 18, 1917, on an Indian reservation in Ontario, served in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division as a volunteer during World War II, Rea said.

During his years in Tinley Park, he often spoke with schoolchildren about his life, Rea said.

“He always spoke of the beauty of the Indian culture, as does his wife, Bobbie Bear,” Rea said. “Chief White Eagle was very close to me.”

Rea recalled when Mr. Heath presided over an Indian wedding for a young German submarine officer and his German bride at Tinley Park Lutheran Church after the bride’s father prevented them from marrying in Germany.

“He was a very proud citizen of Tinley Park and an active spokesman for our village and on behalf of Native American-U.S. relations,” Rea said.

Tietz said Mr. Heath was “open and informative and accepting of children or adults.”

Tietz always was impressed by Mr. Heath’s “stage presence.”

“The man never took a bad photo. He was quite amazing in that regard,” Tietz said.

A memorial service will be held in the spring, Rea said.



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