Tuesday, April 3, 2007 | 7:12 a.m.
In his prime he stood but 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed just 135 pounds, but you would think twice before picking a fight with Howard "Hecky" Heckethorn.
In 1941 Heckethorn, then-Las Vegas High School's student body president, won the Western Regional Golden Gloves lightweight championship and earned an invitation to the U.S. Olympic boxing trials.
World War II interrupted Heckethorn's dreams of Olympic pugilistic glory, so he joined the Army. After the war he completed his education and fulfilled another dream of becoming a teacher.
His trunks and the gloves , with which Heckethorn won five amateur boxing titles , today sit in the trophy case of Howard E. Heckethorn Elementary School as a reminder to students to, as Hecky so often put it, "believe in yourselves" and fight to be who you want to be.
Last week, Heckethorn fell. He died Saturday at University Medical Center of head injuries from that accident. He was 84.
Services for the Las Vegas resident of 77 years will be 1 p.m. Friday at Palm Mortuary at 6701 N. Jones Blvd. Visitation will be at that site from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Interment will be at Palm Memorial Park.
"Hecky got a thrill visiting the school every week," said Heckethorn's daughter-in-law Regan Heckethorn. "The students called him Grandpa and he encouraged them to reach for their dreams."
Heckethorn Elementary, at 5150 Whispering Sands Drive, was dedicated on Oct. 3, 2002, to the educator whose primary subject was math . Heckethorn taught for 27 years in the Clark County School District, including 25 at Red Rock Elementary School.
Heckethorn was the last surviving member of the third generation of a family that has had five generations raised in Southern Nevada. He was the brother of the late Clarence "Hecky" Heckethorn, the Las Vegas Sun's first sports editor, who died in 2005 at age 88.
Born in 1922 in St. George, Utah, Heckethorn came to Las Vegas with his family in 1930. He attended the old Westside Elementary and Fifth Street grammar schools.
At Las Vegas High, Heckethorn's classmates included future fighter pilot , state senator and school teacher Jack Schofield, who in 1941 won the eight-state Golden Gloves Western Regional welterweight crown.
On their return to Las Vegas, then a desert hamlet of about 10,000 residents, Heckethorn and Schofield recalled being treated like heroes.
That fall Howard enrolled in the University of Nevada - he never took kindly to the school's current name University of Nevada, Reno or, even worse, UNR - and served as sophomore class president. He left to enlist in 1943 after winning the state Golden Gloves tournament in Reno.
In the Army Heckethorn won the lightweight championship for his base at Camp Wolters, Texas.
After the war Heckethorn returned to college in Northern Nevada, where he won the 1948 outstanding boxer award. He graduated in 1951 and earned a master's degree in education in 1964.
Heckethorn also was a local boxing referee who officiated professional and amateur bouts.
He served as president of the Young Democrats, was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity and was a life member of Elks Lodge No. 1468.
Heckethorn is survived by his wife of 50 years, Sarah Haley Heckethorn of Las Vegas; two sons, Howard Guinan of Sparks and Gary Heckethorn of Las Vegas; two daughters, Carol Rose and Susan McKeever, both of Las Vegas; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.