Lori Sue Heine, a beloved contributor to Liberty, died on July 8 at her home in Phoenix. She was 56.
A native of Phoenix, Lori graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1988. She spent much of her life in the insurance industry, but several years ago struck out on her own, working from home on individual projects. Her first contribution to Liberty, “Preaching to the Unconverted,” appeared in our May 2010 issue. She was very popular with our readers.
I last heard from Lori in response to messages I sent on June 20 and 22, asking whether she was writing anything for us. She replied in the early morning of June 24: “I’m working on some notes right now for another essay. It should be ready in a few days.” She added that she taking some medication that wasn’t going right: “I’ve spoken with the doctor and she’s prescribing something different. Hopefully it will be an improvement. I expect to be back on track now.”
When you read Lori’s essays, you’ll meet an independent thinker, always judicious but always lively, ably projecting an energetic personal style.
In her latest article for Liberty she had criticized presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, pointing out aspects of his ideas that no one else seemed to have noticed. On July 3 I sent her new evidence of his folly, congratulating her on being right. The next day she wrote to me: “I agree. Buttigieg is a couple crab puffs shy of a pu-pu plate. This is shaping into a very entertaining Democratic race.” She mentioned “the circus of amusement,” and wished me a happy Fourth of July.
That message was the last I received.
If you go to Liberty’s Search function and type her name, you’ll find about 80 contributions — a remarkable legacy. Some are responses to items in the news, some are answers to perennial questions, but each of them is as fresh as the day it was written. Lori had the knack of showing how immediate issues are connected with universal principles, and of illustrating universal principles by vivid pictures from ordinary life. When you read her essays, you’ll meet an independent thinker, always judicious but always lively, ably projecting an energetic personal style.
I used the terms “independent” and “personal,” but they aren’t good enough. It’s easy to be independent and personal if that’s all you want to be: just adopt the edgiest position you can, and announce it in the first words that come to you. Lori wouldn’t dream of doing that. She labeled her works “essays” (“Essay #3,” “Essay #5”) because that’s what they were: essays, in the original sense of the word — serious attempts to arrive at truth. Each was an intellectual experience, ripening toward the moment when it could be given its most appropriate name. Yet as you read it, its shape came through right away, clear and sound as a crystal vase.
Lori required very little editing. Good copy is delightful to any editor, but I was particularly interested in Lori’s responses to the few edits I made. She considered them carefully, accepting most but often going beyond them, sending the work back to me with brief but important additions and alterations. They weren’t just fine tunings; they were ways of setting things right at the moment while embarking on the next journey of thought and feeling. It was as if there were one great essay that was always growing out of her experience. When I’d write to her asking whether she might have something for Liberty, she usually replied, “I’ve been thinking . . .”
She labeled her works “essays” because that’s what they were: essays, in the original sense of the word — serious attempts to arrive at truth.
Maybe a crystal vase isn’t exactly the right metaphor, although it’s close. Lori’s essays were shapely, but they weren’t intended to be ornamental; she wanted them to hold water, and they did. Before she sat down at the keyboard, her concepts had already passed a serious examination; then, as the keyboard clicked, they were rigorously interrogated and ruthlessly disciplined. When she was finished, I’m sure she sat back and said, “I think that’s good!” When she started her next essay, I’m sure she said, “I think this will be better!”
Bill Merritt, also a distinguished contributor to Liberty, has said of Lori: “I never met her and didn’t know her outside of the pages of Liberty but sometimes one comes to feel like he knows a writer, and I’d come to really admire her, not just for her words, but for the largeness of her . . . soul, for lack of a better word.”
Lori’s political ideas expressed that generous soul. She was a libertarian because, to paraphrase the words of Christ, she wanted people to have life and have it more abundantly. Her most common argument was that both Left and Right have it wrong; their idea of reality is severely constricted, and being so, is blind to at least half the world and its opportunities. For ignorance, prejudice, self-conceit, and meddling she had a noble scorn, but her goal was to persuade both Left and Right, and Libertarians too, that they should grow out of those things. She thought that when they did, they would find that life was good. To paraphrase another literary eminence, she thought they might achieve a just and lasting peace among themselves, and with all others.
As a lesbian Christian, active in the Episcopal church and in gay environments in which libertarian opinion is uncommon, Lori had many opportunities to practice what she preached. She seized them. Detesting the sentimentality and hypocrisy of modern liberals and Progressives, just as she detested the social bigotries of many modern conservatives, she declined to participate in the rituals of any tribe; yet she stayed in there, making good arguments, trying to find common ground, and when not finding it, refusing to have a fit, stage a scene, or make contemporary social life any more miserable than it was already. I believe she was always — to use the military metaphor — left in possession of the field.
Lori was a libertarian because, to paraphrase the words of Christ, she wanted people to have life and have it more abundantly.
Now I will speak more personally. The news of Lori’s death was devastating to me. During the years of our association I had come to depend on her, in several ways. Most obviously, I looked forward to the writing that she regularly, and generously, provided to Liberty. She wasn’t “on contract,” but every three or four weeks, an essay would turn up in my mailbox. If more weeks passed and I hadn’t received an essay, I wrote to her, saying that I knew she had something cooking — and she always did. Something savory, too.
But I didn’t rely just on her writing. I relied on her. Lori was one of those great libertarians — Ayn Rand, Isabel Paterson, R.W. Bradford — who delighted in staying up late at night to converse about things that mattered, in a way that mattered: wittily, knowledgeably, and with all of the self engaged. That’s what she did for me, online, during the many late nights of messages that she and I sent back and forth. Often our conversation was about popular culture and our impressions and memories of it — “Wonder Woman”! — and about life in Gay America. Often it was about people’s attitudes to politics and the strange experiences that a normal, rational person (Lori) had in her journey through our weird National Conversations. And often the dialogue turned to religion. Lori was devoutly but unostentatiously religious. As a fellow Episcopalian, I treasured her sharp insights on Christian customs and beliefs, and on the social environment of our church and other churches. I didn’t just treasure them. I looked forward to them, laughed over them, and loved them.
Again, I found that Lori was willing to back her opinions with her daily life. A vigorous opponent of political correctness, she refused to reciprocate the hostility of the politically correct. An advocate of individualism, she made her own decisions and took absolute responsibility for them. A lover of her country, she embodied, in her thoughtfulness and candor, the true ideals of citizenship. A lover of liberty, she gladly granted others not only freedom but also tolerance and understanding. A thinker, she also knew how to write. What more can you want? Only that Lori should still be with us.
In September 2018, Lori’s book Good Clowns was published. It is available from Amazon.