I did not have the pleasure of knowing Clark I. “Poofy” Heighton Jr. personally, but I am most likely the exception to the rule in Winthrop.
“Poofy” was perhaps best known around town as a 37- year veteran of the Winthrop Auxiliary Police Department and Deputy Chief of that department until his death last Thursday, September 22. He was 68 years old and had battled lung cancer for the past 29 months, and according to his son-in-law Chris Hall, he fought the disease right to the very end, even working regular Auxiliary Police shifts up to five months ago.
Police Chief Terence Delehanty said the man people around Town knew simply as “Poofy” was “an invaluable part of the law enforcement community in Winthrop and certainly had an effect on law enforcement around the state.”
Delehanty should know, Poofy was a close personal friend of the Delehanty family, and in particular the Chief’s brother Officer Sean Delehanty.
“He was always the first person to show up and help at the scene if an officer called for assistance,” explained Chief Delehanty. “I think he monitored that scanner 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the minute he heard a call for assistance, he‘d be on the scene helping our officers in any way he could.”
Poofy was devoted to the Auxiliary Police almost as much as he was devoted to his family and friends.
“We simply cannot thank him, or his family enough, for the 37 years of service he provided to the town,” added Delehanty.
But remembering Poofy simply for his volunteer service to the town would be a disservice to his memory and the impact he had on those who knew him best.
“The first time I met Poofy,” recalled Hall. “My wife Michelle had brought me home for Thanksgiving and he immediately took me into his home and welcomed me into the family. He was a very caring man who loved to have people at his house. . .I think the more people he had in his home, the happier he was.”
“I unfortunately only got to know him for the last 11 years,” added Hall. “I feel blessed to have known him. . . but it wasn’t enough time.”
Auxiliary Police Chief Robert Sanborn, who had known Poofy since he first joined the Auxiliary Police as a patrolman in July 1974, noted that he was a unique kind of man.
“When I was hospitalized back in 1996, for about seven months with a very serious illness, Poofy came up to the Massachusetts General Hospital everyday to see me,” said Sanborn of his friend. “That’s the kind of guy he was. During one visit I mentioned that my feet were really bothering me and he went to the foot of the bed and started massaging my feet, for about 30 minutes, he did that for the next few days. As far as he was concerned, we were brothers, that was just how it was.”
During one Auxiliary Police event in Hopkinton, while Sanborn was still hospitalized, Poofy convinced all of the Winthrop Auxiliary Officers to stop by the hospital in their uniforms to visit the bedridden Chief on their way back to town. The sight of 20 plus police officers in full uniform walking the halls of Massachusetts General Hospital won’t soon be forgotten by one patient, who became concerned that a dangerous criminal must be in the building with all of those police officers around. But the visit also cheered up the Chief, who needed it at the time.
“He got me to join the Auxiliary Police in 1995, when I first moved up here with my wife,” said Hall. “I can tell you that all of the guys in department looked forward to working their shifts with Poofy. He was dearly loved in that department, that’s for sure.”
In this day and age people who will give of themselves, selflessly, to improve the community around them, are in short supply and in listening to the testimony given by his brothers in law enforcement, Winthrop has now lost another such individual.
Our condolences go out to Poofy’s wife of 33 years Mary Lou (Riley), his son Clark Lloyd, his daughters Brenda Poirier, Michelle Hall and Melonie Nelson and their families.
Poofy was one of a kind, and he will be missed.