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Joseph Neil Heffernan

April 2, 1926 — February 24, 2024


Joseph Neil Heffernan

Joseph Neil Heffernan


Joseph Neil Heffernan passed away on February 24, 2024 at the age of 97 while in hospice at Freedom Village of Bradenton. Born on April 2, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan to John Joseph Heffernan and Flora Mae Mack (McEachin), Joe was the third of eight children in this Irish-Scottish family. As did his five brothers and two sisters, Joe attended St. Gregory‘s Catholic School in Detroit. During his school days, Joe had the usual extra jobs of delivering newspapers, stocking grocery shelves, working in a lumberyard, driving a pop truck, and during the early war years, he operated a drill press in a factory. 

Joe lived an ordinary life, but was quite an extraordinary man who quietly touched the lives of countless others. He proudly served in the United States Navy during World War II as a crew member on a Liberty supply ship in the South Pacific, delivering radio and radar parts to repair crews; he also spent time on the island of Saipan from which our planes made bomb runs. 

When he was honorably discharged in 1946, Joe returned to Detroit and attended Tool Engineering School. He then went on to work at Michigan Central Railroad as a draftsman in the Engineering Department; MCR eventually became Conrail. During the 1950s building boom, with Joe’s help the company was very busy designing track layouts to many plants and factories.

Above all, Joe loved the Lord and his family dearly. He was a humble man of deep faith and prayer, a committed Catholic Christian, financially supporting many charities and giving his time to faithfully serve others with joy. Additionally, for many years Joe volunteered as an usher at the Masonic Temple Theater which enabled him to enjoy many good concerts and shows. He also loved traveling the USA and made numerous trips cross country.

Upon retiring from Conrail in 1988, Joe moved to Golf Lakes Mobile Estates in Bradenton, Florida to live with and care for his elderly father. He fit in well with the sunny, active life in Florida, especially coordinating Saturday Coffee Hour at Golf Lakes for over 10 years, which earned him the nickname, “Mr. Coffee Hour”.


An apparent confirmed bachelor, Joe reversed course upon meeting Emily Borowski while they both ushered at Queen of Martyrs, and he soon married the love of his life at the age of 75. They enjoyed over 22 wonderful years together.

Joseph is survived by his beloved wife Emily, as well as his brother Thomas (Joyce), brother-in-law Robert Rochon (Helen, dec.), and sisters-in-law Barbara Heffernan & Jann Heffernan (William, dec.). Though he had no children of his own, Joe was very fond of his 36 nieces and nephews, and has numerous great and great-grands. Joe has a stepdaughter Pam Barthels, step daughters-in-law Jan Borowski (Greg, dec.) and Charlotte Borowski (Wayne, dec.),  4 step-grandchildren and 4 great-grands. Joe was predeceased by additional siblings: Frank (Kay), James (Joanne & Mary Helen), Daniel (Beverly), Harriet Farris (Charlie) as well as niece, Patricia Heffernan. 

A Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated for Joseph on Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 10:00 am at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church, 833 Magellan Dr, Sarasota, FL 34243. He will be interred at the church Memorial Garden immediately afterwards. A luncheon will follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Joe’s favorite charity, The Hope Clinic, at

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