Robert Heidt Sr., not only set one of the most famous broken legs in NFL history as the Bengals team doctor, he set the tone for the first generation of sports medicine in the region when he created the Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine group. When he died Tuesday of prostate cancer at 85 in his Clifton home, his son remembered the dreamer and not the detail man that spawned a practice that now has nearly 30 doctors.
"Such a renaissance man," said Rob Heidt Jr., the doctor-son that succeeded him. "The one thing I hoped to learn from him was his dignity. Dignity to himself and others as a husband, father and physician. He worked hard to make big things happen."
Senior quietly made big things happen with the Bengals from 1980-98 and the Reds from 1968-90. Bengals Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz was one of the first mourners to phone Junior Tuesday morning and Tuesday night he recalled the story he told at Senior's retirement dinner.
"I had dislocated my elbow against the Giants and the pain was excruciating," Muñoz said. "Rob Jr. came out on the field with another young guy and it seemed like an hour went by. I'm sure it wasn't, but those two guys were trying to get it back into the place. Then I felt the hands of experience manipulate the elbow and suddenly it was back in place. It was Rob Sr. A special man. We had a special relationship."
Muñoz likes to tell that story kiddingly to give Junior a hard time, but Muñoz still calls the son if he has anything that crops up and makes his way to Wellington. By the time Muñoz and the Bengals played in Super Bowl XXIII, Junior had been working with his father for five seasons on the sidelines when they were faced with nose tackle Tim Krumrie's gruesome broken leg.
The son admits those were two tough, old school guys, his dad and Krumrie as Senior calmly set the leg.
"Dad said, 'Timmy, this might hurt a little bit,' and Krumrie said, 'I know,' " Junior recalled.
Heidt Jr., who retired from the Bengals after 28 years following the past season, had some of his fondest memories working the Bengals games with his father.
"He was my friend. We golfed together, we practiced together," Junior said.
They also followed the Bengals together. Senior kept going to the home games right through last season despite his illness. When his father left home for the last time Tuesday, Junior made sure he was dressed properly.
"In his Bengals team shirt," Junior said. "I think that's the way he would have wanted to leave."
The funeral is 10 a.m. Saturday at the Church of the Annunciation, 3547 Clifton Ave., Clifton, with burial at Gate of Heaven cemetery. A noon reception is set for Cincinnati Country Club, 2348 Grandin Road in Hyde Park. Memorials can be made to Christ Hospital, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 2139 Auburn Ave., Cincinnati, OH, 45219.