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Bobbi Bear (right) and Chief White Eagle (left) performed a wedding ceremony for a German couple at Landmark Church in 1991. (Photo submitted by Randal Tietz)

An Native American actor and a treasured piece of Tinley Park history died Monday in Rochester, Ind., after a few months of poor health.

Basil F. Heath, better known as Chief White Eagle, lived in unincorporated Tinley Park with his wife, Roberta, or Bobbi Bear, from about 1975 to 1990, said Village Clerk Pat Rea.

He lived an accomplished life, Rea said, that included appearances in popular Western films alongside movie greats like John Wayne. “Northwest Passage” was his first film in 1940, and later he added “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Stage Coach” and more to his repertoire.

Rea, who knew Heath well, said one of his favorite lines was to say his good friend John Wayne had killed him seven times.

“He was just wonderful,” Rea said.

According to his obituary, Heath also starred in the popular children’s television show “Totem Club” broadcast on Chicago’s WTTW Channel 11, for which he won an Emmy in 1964.

“He won every award there was except an Oscar,” Rea said.

Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1917, Rea said Heath served a senior Mohawk Chief in the United States and Canada. Army 101st Airborne during WWII as a volunteer because he was still a Canadian citizen. citizen.

While living in Tinley Park,
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Heath and his wife both were active in the community and especially in the village’s Sister Cities Commission. Heath joined the group on a trip to sister city Budingen, Germany, in the mid 80’s. Everywhere they went, Heath was the main attraction.

Dressed in his full Indian American regalia, Heath also pitched in when visitors from the village’s German sister city came to Tinley Park. He accompanied them to Starved Rock State Park where he explained the history of the park and how it got its name, said Carol Tietz, member of the Sister Cities Commission.

She said Heath had a chiseled face, a great sense of humor and he always commanded a room.

“He’s one of those bigger than life people and he was just a delight,” she said.

Randal Tietz, chairman of the Sister Cities Commission and Carol’s husband, said one of Heath’s favorite jokes often came up when he would visit area schools to talk about his heritage. When people asked him where Native Americans came from, he would answer, “Cleveland.”

“It stopped everybody in their tracks every time,” he said. “And he enjoyed that, he enjoyed people learning about his history.”

Even though Heath and his wife left Tinley Park for Indiana in the early ’90s, Tietz said in his eyes they always remained as Tinley Park residents.

“He was always considered part of our community and especially part of the Sister Cities program,” he said.

The couple’s place in Tinley Park’s history was cemented in 1991 when they performed a wedding ceremony for a German couple who eloped to Tinley Park to be married. The groom, a German submarine lieutenant, visited Tinley Park once before as a naval cadet. When his bride’s parents didn’t approve of their marriage, the two returned to Tinley Park where the village hosted a wedding for them at the Landmark Church.

Heath and his wife performed the ceremony alongside a Baptist minister, mixing together Native American rituals with Christian traditions.

“It was just remarkable,” Carol Tietz said. “He had such flair and drama. It was really an incredible site.”

Randal Tietz said he last saw Heath during a social event a few years ago.

“He was just as animated and interesting as always,
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” he said. “And we always looked forward to the opportunities of visiting. It was great to see him and he will be missed.”