Marcia Lessler Heaney - Wheatley + 50 Years


I toyed with the idea of coming to Wheatley’s 50 year reunion.  I wasn’t one of the popular kids at school;  I wasn’t a class officer;  I wasn’t a cheerleader; and I wasn’t one of the smartest kids in our class.  But I have accomplished a lot over the past 50 years, and I am very curious and want to know what my classmates have done with their lives, and also to let people know what I have accomplished. 


In reviewing the comments my classmates made in my yearbook I was considered very energetic and enthusiastic, and known to be a good athlete.  Well that has not changed over the past 50 years!  I am still extremely energetic and enthusiastic, and athletic.  I also found over the years that I have a track record of being a “developer” and “creator.”


I attended Adelphi University in Garden City.  I got married in the middle of my sophomore year; and became pregnant on my honeymoon in the Virgin Islands.  That was a big joke on campus.  I stayed out a year with my son, Bobby and went back to college and graduated in 1965 with a teaching degree in Health and Physical Education.  


When I was nearing graduation, I interviewed for a teaching job, I was asked when I was planning on having another child?, Who was going to watch my son?  And lots of other questions that are illegal to ask today!  After interviewing with several school systems, I decided the only ones who wanted to hire me were the Catholic Schools because they were very much in favor of procreation.  So I chose being a stay at home Mom, and graduated pregnant with my second child, Laura.


My husband and I and our two children settled down in a house in North Massapequa.

I started my graduate degree in Health Education at Adelphi, and settled down as a homeowner.  I got involved in the Viceroy Civic Association and eventually I became the Secretary and then President of the organization. 


One night one of the residents approached me with a problem. Her daughter was involved in the drug abuse scene and she didn’t know what to do.  I was taking courses in graduate school on Health Education and started to do research on drug abuse prevention and intervention techniques so that I could help guide this parent to some helping resources in the community.


Unfortunately, there were very few resources for parents who had kids into the drug scene in the late 60’s.   The more I learned the more I found a need for a community action group for drug abuse prevention.  I put an article in a local paper in Farmingdale, NY and asked anyone concerned about drug abuse to meet at a local school on a specific date.   Seven people showed up, including the mother of the teenager who was into drugs. 


A year later, I developed and incorporated P.R.I.C.E. – A not for profit community action group serving the Farmingdale, North Massapequa area of the Island.  The letters stood for Prevention, Referral, Information, Counseling and Education.


I was very involved in creating a drug prevention center in Farmingdale that had professional counselors operating support groups for teenagers, social activities and a safe place to hang out.   I would drive around in my station wagon with several teenagers  the night before garbage collection and pick up old couches, chairs, tables etc. to furnish the center.


In 1972 my husband wanted to advance in his government job, but he had to wait for someone to retire or die before that could happen.  He applied for positions with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Newark, New Jersey and Buffalo, New York.  If you remember 1972 there were race riots in Newark, so the decision was easy –

Move to Buffalo.


Everyone was discouraging our decision to move to Buffalo.  When I got off the plane to go house-hunting I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the area was and how friendly people were.   The best part was that the housing in Buffalo was inexpensive compared to the Island.   Shortly after arriving in our new home in Buffalo, I became pregnant with my third child, Lisa.


Our community was only a year old and did not have a Civic Association.   I brought residents together and we formed the Fox Hunt Farms Civic Association, in 1974.    I organized an annual Halloween Parade in the community; I had Santa Claus come around at holiday time and ring everyone’s door bell and give out candy canes to all the children.  I organized a Progressive Dinner where residents of our community had a large Cocktail Party together, then separated to individual home for Soup and Salad, and then switched homes again for the Main Course.  We then all came back together for Dessert at one home.  I eventually became President of the organization and successfully prevented a buses being routed through our community into an adjacent school.


In 1980 when my youngest daughter Lynn was in first grade and my oldest Bobby was a senior, I went to work fulltime for the Amherst Youth Bureau.  I was the Planning Coordinator for 5 years.  


My years of volunteer work in the drug abuse prevention field did not go un-noticed.  In 1985 I was honored by New York State Division of Substance Abuse Services as Outstanding Volunteer in Prevention in New York State.  


In 1986 I divorced my first husband, after 24 years of marriage.  I should have done it much sooner, but felt I would be a failure at marriage.  I had been successful in everything else in my life; finally giving up on the marriage was long overdue.  I couldn’t believe my mother-in-law when I told her of the impending divorce. She suggested we wait until after our 25th anniversary!  The best part of the divorce was getting rid of my mother-in-law!


As my children got older, I saw a need for a drug prevention organization in my area.  Awareness of the problem was years behind the New York Metropolitan area.  I eventually created a Community Action Group for Drug Prevention in 1984 in East Amherst, NY.   I called it Amherst Y-U.  The letters Y-U were short for why you should be involved and part of the solution to the drug abuse problem.  


In 1985 I wrote a grant to the Division of Substance Abuse Services to fund a Substance Abuse Prevention Agency in Amherst, NY.  I was an entrepreneur with the government’s money!  I was successful and operated my own agency for 5 years.  I grew it from a $28,000 program to a budget of over $280,000 with multiple funding resources.   I created a program for the Elementary Schools- “Make Drugs Disappear” utilizing a high school student who did magic tricks and  I did commentary.  I developed a program for Drivers Education students using individuals convicted of DWI and sentenced to community service; I did values clarification and decision making classes for high school students.  


I was very involved in the PTA and School Board in our area during the years my children were in public school.  I have served at PTA President at one of the Elementary Schools, at the High School and as President of the PTA Council in the School District.  In 1987 I was awarded the Williamsville School District’s American Education Award for my years of service to the children in our district.


In 1989 I worked for the State for a Year and coordinated Community Action Groups for Drug Prevention throughout New York State.  In 1990 my friends encouraged me to make money for my “old age.”   I took a position in marketing in-patient mental health and chemical dependency programs. 


In 1993 I made a career change out of the drug abuse scene.  I had been involved for so long that I remember I used to watch people’s drinking habits at cocktail parties.  Well that all changed when I took a job at a Dental Manufacturing Company.  I found myself looking at people’s teeth and how they smiled at cocktail parties!   I was originally hired to market a new preventive product for preventing dental cavities.  The product was years before its time.


After a year I was promoted to Manager of Professional Services to create a new department to nurture dental professionals by educating them on our products and services.  I worked with Dental Schools, Dental Hygiene Schools, individuals who researched dental materials, and people who evaluated dental products.  I retired 2 years ago after 15 years at Ivoclar Vivadent.


In 2001 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I took 9 months off work for treatment.  As a result of my diagnosis I developed a new passion to educate and be a resource for woman diagnosed with breast cancer.  I got active in a local organization and began lobbying and advocating in Albany and Washington for money for education and research.  I am the past President of the Breast Cancer Network of WNY.


I was honored in 2006 to receive the Ultimate Drive Award from BMW of North American for my efforts to eradicate breast cancer.  In 2008 I was awarded the Komen Foundation Faith Award for my efforts in advocating in the community for support, screening and treatment and the empowerment of women.


I also am a member and past Co-Captain of Hope Chest, a breast cancer dragon boat team.  I exercise every week with team members, and paddle a dragon boat in the Buffalo River ever summer with 19 other survivors.  We compete against other survivor teams throughout Canada and the Eastern United States.




  When I retired I wrote a grant to the New York State Department of Health and got funded for $200,000 (over a 5 year period) to provide Education, Advocacy, Support and Quality of Life Activities for Breast Cancer Survivors.  I am the volunteer administrator of the program.  We are all breast cancer survivors and there is no paid staff.  It is a very unique organization.  I have grown the organization from 40 members to over 200 members.


In 2000 I married my husband Larry.  He is a strong willed Irishman and we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary this year.  We live in East Amherst, New York in a comfortable ranch on 2 acres of land with our two Golden Retrievers, Heidi and Cindy. 


Larry and I have 5 children between us, 3 in town and 2 out of town.  We have 8 grandchildren.  My Dad died at 57 of a heart attack, and my Mom is going to be 99 this June 19th.  I hope I have my Mom’s genes!  I am sure I inherited my Dad’s energy and enthusiasm for life!


Marcia Heaney

April, 2010