Aug. 29, 1924 - July 11, 2017
Henry Ph. Heubusch never bragged about being a rocket scientist, and was almost nonchalant when he and his family watched the 1969 Apollo 11 moon mission on television, and its safe return to earth using the propellants he had helped to create.
But years earlier, when he was 10 years old, he wanted to stand out. That's when he started adding the "h" to his middle initial.
"Since childhood he used that because there were so many Henrys and so many Phillips," said his daughter, Barbara J. Rubin. "He figured that would distinguish him. He didn’t want to be Henry the third."
Mr. Heubusch, of Williamsville, who was 92 when he died Tuesday in Elderwood at Williamsville in Amherst, should never have feared being undistinguished.
He was chief chemist at Bell Aerospace from 1951 to 1984. A research scientist and expert in propellant chemistry, he designed, staffed and directed Bell's Propellants Research Laboratory. He also worked on projects for NASA, including the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Minuteman II projects. He did work for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. Among his consulting clients were ARDE, British Aerospace, Ford Aerospace, General Dynamics, Lockheed and Lorel Aerospace.
At Bell, he was the author of numerous papers. He holds seven patents and was the recipient of the NASA Medal for support of efforts to land the first man on the moon.
"He never bragged, he never bragged about it," Rubin said. "He was intensely interested in all of it, anything NASA did."
A Buffalo native, Mr. Heubusch attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry from Canisius College. He worked as quality control manager for the Direct Sales Pharmaceutical Co. before joining Bell.
Immediately after retiring from Bell, he joined the faculty at Canisius College and set up a propellant consulting business. The college gave him an honorary doctorate in 1992 for his work in aerospace.
"He taught chemistry in the middle of all this," Rubin said. "He loved to teach."
"It is an unusual person who can teach beginning chemistry students one day and advise leading scientists at NASA the next day," the college president, the late Rev. James M. Demske, said in his citation on the conferral of the honorary degree.
Mr. Heubusch also played the trombone with the Lampost Band, and after retiring, made chocolate candy molds for his family at holidays. His father and grandfather ran Heubusch Candy Co., and he had acquired the molds from the company.
His great uncle on his mother's side of the family, Francis X. Schwab, was a mayor of Buffalo.
Mr. Heubusch was devoted to his wife and family, and the couple shared a room at Elderwood. Just a couple of weeks ago, he sang a love song to his wife of 69 years, Jean.
He was preceded in death by a son, Philip Henry. In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by two other daughters, Linda M. Kunz and Shirley A. Espersen; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 18, at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 5480 Main St., Williamsville.