Rusty Hevelin (1922-2011)

Rusty Hevelin at a Boskone in the 1970s. Photo by Andrew Porter.

James “Rusty” Hevelin, a winner of First Fandom’s Sam Moskowitz Archive Award (2003) and a past Worldcon Guest of Honor, died December 27 at the age of 89. He was hospitalized a few days ago with poor circulation in his legs. When a planned surgical intervention was cancelled because Rusty’s condition worsened to the point where his surgeon and doctors concluded that he’d be unlikely to survive the surgery, he spent his last days in hospice care.  
As a teenager living in Riverside, California, Rusty somehow discovered the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. He attended a meeting in 1941 (– and from that experience deemed Laney’s “Ah, Sweet Idiocy” not grossly exaggerated!) Later in the year he hitchhiked to Denver to attend the Worldcon. (See his conreport here.)

After the con, Rusty  moved to Philadelphia where he soon was elected President of the PSFS. He also began publishing a newzine, Nebula. Once World War II began he joined the Marine Corps and served in the Pacific as a meteorologist.

When Rusty came back from World War II he resumed his role as an active fan organizer. Still the last President of PSFS, he suggested a merger of Philadelphia’s two small sf clubs. He also served as a director of the National Fantasy Fan Federation during its tempestuous postwar era, the N3F having been founded in 1940 at the suggestion of Damon Knight.

At the same time, Rusty took over publication of StefNews from Jack Speer. Other zines he published over the years include Aliquot, H-1661, and Badly.

A curious measure of the ebb and flow of Rusty’s role in fanhistory is the way Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays repeatedly cites him as a mover and shaker in 1940s fandom, yet judging by A Wealth of Fable in the following decade the only historic thing he did was keep Bob Tucker from stalking out of the 1956 Worldcon after missing Al Capp’s speech. (Tucker was one of the victims of events which produced the catchphrase “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here.”)

Tucker and Hevelin were great friends. Tucker enjoyed introducing Rusty as his “Dad”, winking at the fact he’d been born in 1914 and Hevelin in 1922. Tucker would also say, “Some people wonder out loud why dad’s surname is not the same as mine. It’s a simple answer. He didn’t marry my mother.”

Rusty did eventually marry and has four sons, John, Scott, Bruce and Will.  

After a long hiatus that ended in the mid-Sixties, Rusty became active in fandom again and began huckstering at conventions.

He was always popular. Rusty was elected the 1975 Down Under Fan Fund delegate and attended the first Australian Worldcon. For his trip report he created a slide show and presented it at conventions around the U.S.

Though Rusty kept his hand in as a huckster and conrunner as the years went by (assuring that Pulpcon kept going after its first year, 1972, with the aid of Lynn Hickman and Gordon Huber), his memory really rests on his reputation for friendliness and the good times people had in his company.

Rusty’s contributions to fandom were celebrated by Denvention 2 (1981) where he was Fan Guest of Honor.

[Thanks to Bill Higgins, Steven Silver, Keith Stokes and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Update 12/29/2011: Two corrections. (1) I’ve learned Rusty never joined First Fandom although, of course, his fanac began early enough to make him eligible. And it was pointed out he therefore might not have wanted to be identified as a member. (2) Also corrected the description of his role in the beginnings of Pulpcon — thanks to Walker Martin. In fact that explains the phrasing of the info in Lynn Hickman’s obituary which I used as a source, intended to convey that they kept Pulpcon from being a one-shot. 

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20 thoughts on “Rusty Hevelin (1922-2011)

  1. For anyone who didn’t know Rusty, I’d recommend reading Curt Phillips’ column on him in Dave Locke’s Time And Again, October 2009, which can be found at eFanzines:

    It’s a beautiful, heartfelt piece about a dear friend, which I’m sure Rusty read and appreciated. Curt begins:

    “One of the many flaws of human beings is that we tend not to tell the people we care about that they’re important to us until they’re gone from this world and beyond the point where our thoughts can make any difference in their lives.

    “I have a friend and he’s important to me and I’d like to tell you something about him. His name is James Hevelin, but you know
    him as Rusty.”

  2. A good write-up, Mike. Glad my photo came out so well.

    I’m thankful that Rusty’s suffering was so brief. His passing leaves many friends heartbroken, but his life was long and interesting.

  3. I’m heartbroken. If there has ever been anyone in fandom who was a father to me, it was Rusty. We spent many hours together in dealer rooms just talking; books, people, SF, books, gossip, pulps, books. You get the idea.

    Rusty was my friend and mentor. He enjoyed his friends and fandom. And I surely enjoyed being around Rusty.

    Greg Ketter

  4. Long was his life, long live his memory among trufans! I’ll miss him: we were always glad to see one another at cons, and always had good conversations. I was going to send him an e-mail at his hospice this morning when I saw the news, that I was too late. “Too late” are the saddest words in the English language, I think.

    I didn’t know he was a meteorologist in the Marines in WWII.–another connection between him and me: I was a meteorologist with the Air Force when I re-entered fandom about 1970. I learn something new every day.


  5. Thanks for this obit, and for using Andy’s photo, which is one of the few I’ve seen in relation to this news that shows him more in his prime. (Although I have to say that one of my favorite quotes is from Gene Wolfe, who said on a panel on Religion and SF that I was moderating that “the problem with my religion is that God looks like Rusty Hevelin”)

  6. Thanks for this nice write-up about Rusty. I would like to correct one mistake however. I was at the first Pulpcon in 1972 and Ed Kessell put on the convention and was responsible for starting it. He may have had Rusty’s advice along with Nils Hardin, Gordon Huber, Lynn Hickman and others.

    Since the convention lost money and was alot of work, Kessell decided to not continue it the next year. Rusty Hevelin then stepped in and was the main force behind the annual Pulpcon for the next 30 years. He eventually had to turn the convention over to a committee who ran it until 2009, when it was reborn as PulpFest. Rusty visited PulpFest 3 in Columbus, Ohio in 2011 and received a standing ovation in the dealer’s room. He attended the nightly events along with Gay Haldeman and it was obvious that he was enjoying himself.

  7. RUSTY was one of the major causes of my pleonexia, and I will NEVER forget him. I first met him at a Lunacon in the late 1960s. He was my first Arkham House connection and supplied me with truly MINT copies of MANY out of print volumes. MANY years later, I was able to help him price a collection of books he was selling, a VERY small favor for all he did for me over countless YEARS! Still, every time I saw him at a convention after that, HE DID NOT FAIL to thank me again for this minor deed. He was by far one of the most friendly if not THE most friendly person I have ever known in the field. Our long hours of collecting talk greatly enhanced my convention experiences. I am sorry to hear that he has left us.

  8. Another correction: Upon his marriage, Rusty adopted John and Scott, his wife’s children from a previous marriage. Bruce and Will are Rusty’s biological sons.

  9. @Leslie: Thanks for that additional information. After thinking about it I decided not to make the distinction in his obituary. When the time comes for somebody to write my obituary I wouldn’t expect them to specify that my daughter was adopted, although it’s someting all my friends know.

  10. Rusty was, indeed, a mensch. He was a great, avuncular soul and mentor to several generations of fans, including myself, and we, all of us will miss him.

  11. I first met Rusty when I was a teenager. He attended a get-together at my mother’s home in California in the 1970’s. Mom was a 1940’s Slan-Shack kid (Battle Creek, MI) and the story telling of the antics in those days (Tucker, Liebscher, Robinson, the Ashley’s, etc.) is one of my fondest memories.

    Many, many years later I was fortunate enough to reunite with Rusty when I attended Pulpcons in the mid-2000’s. He was just as warm and loving as I had remembered. And once again, I was able to hear some of the old familiar stories that I remembered from my youth. My mom passed away in 1987, so this connection with Rusty was even more precious to me.

    Being that he did not use email and rarely answered snail mail, our communication was limited. But, the affection and delight in visiting in person was not. He was dearly loved by so many. And that would include me.

    Here’s to a “smoooooooth” transition, my friend, to wherever your journey leads you next. And if you happen to see mom – give her a big hug for me!

  12. One of the things I shall always remember about Rusty is how much fun he was to be around.
    On my way back from Windy City this year Jack Cullers took me to visit Rusty at the Rehab he was at after he had a fall in his home in Dayton.
    We spent a very pleasant hour plus with him and that is a wonderful memory.

  13. Sigh. I did not meet Rusty until Denvention 3. But I can echo what others have said that even to this fan he’d never met, Rusty’s kind nature shone brightly. I can only regret not having met gotten to know him sooner, I would have loved to have talked to him about the early days of LASFS.

  14. Sad news indeed. I met Rusty in my teens, and I remember thinking he was very old. Comical, really, as this was 40 years ago. I was still in my teens when Rusty quite literally saved my life (or at least helped to head off what could have been a deadly altercation over the daughter of a BNF I was dating). He was always fun, always a gentleman, and I’m sorry now that I’ve been so out of contact with fandom that I haven’t seen him in many years. Rest in peace, Rusty.

  15. I’ve been so upset at this that it’s taken me a while to be able to write about it. I wasn’t a close friend of Rusty’s, but he was a fannish Icon, a person who made fandom what it is. I knew via Joe Haldeman that he had health problems this year, but I didn’t realize that they were as serious as they turned out to be. The people who were the pillars of fandom as I saw them are disappearing at an appalling rate — Poul Anderson, Gordy Dickson, Bruce Pelz, Bob Tucker, Mike Glicksohn, and now Rusth Hevelin. Plus all the others who get obituaried in F770. As I get older I realize that the odds for my own self aren’t necessarily good either, as many listed are only a few years older than I am. I’m out of touch with most fans these days, and with these deaths it gets colder and emptier. These were people I cared about, even at a distance, many of whom did me kindnesses I was never able to repay. I cry at odd moments as I think of them and wish I could change history. I wish they were all still here.

  16. What a fine fellow he was. Such a nice guy. So sorry to see him go. I last saw him at OSFest 3 in Omaha, July 2010; he conducted the on-stage Guests of Honor interviews, and we had a terrific dinner in advance of that. R.I.P, Rusty.

  17. When I first went to Pulpcon in 1994, one of the nicest people I met was Rusty. It was like he put out the welcome mat for me and said that I was one of the few female pulp fans at that time. I will miss Rusty. The greatest measure of a person is how well he or she was respected. Well, Rusty had that and all the other good qualities that a person can have. God bless him and his family during this sad time.

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