Obituary: Michael Hecht
Father, stockbroker, bibliophile, philographer
Michael Fred Hecht, 61, died of cancer on November 15, 2017.
Mr. Hecht was born in Pomona, and grew up in nearby Ontario. He lived his entire life in Southern California, including a stint from 1993 through 2005 in Claremont. At the time of his death, he lived in San Dimas.
He always idolized his father, Arthur Hecht, a career US Army officer who fought in World War II. After the war, his father married Ruth Lippel, and they moved from the East Coast to Southern California, where he taught at the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino and managed a supermarket.
While studying history at UCLA, young Mr. Hecht met Donna Crowley, another history major. He graduated in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in history, and the couple was married in 1982. The marriage produced a daughter, Lillian. The couple divorced in 2005.
After visiting the New York Stock Exchange as a child, the young Mr. Hecht’s fixed ambition was to become a stockbroker. He achieved that goal in 1983 when he was hired by Shearson/ American Express as a financial advisor. He continued to work for the same company for the rest of his life, although its name changed every few years, most recently to Morgan Stanley.
Most of Mr. Hecht’s spare time was devoted to his hobby—collecting books and autographs. Although he had a wide range of interests within this field, he focused on history, and within that, the history of Southern California. He acquired the autographs of presidents, prime ministers, US Supreme Court justices, business leaders and authors, as well as lesser-known characters who happened to interest him. He considered a certificate of membership in the Society of the Cincinnati (a group of officers who had served in the Revolutionary War), signed by George Washington, to be the crown jewel of his collection.
After his cancer diagnosis he had his book collection appraised. It was found to total some 1,851 volumes. Despite the difficult circumstances, he continued to make new acquisitions while in hospice care, buying items for his collection from eBay nearly up to the time of his death.
A clubbable man, Mr. Hecht was a member of the Zamorano Club, a group of book and manuscript collectors specializing in California history; the Manuscript Society, an organization of individual and institutional book and autograph collectors; and the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal and charitable organization. He was president of the Universal Autograph Collectors Club. He was also a member of Temple Sholom of Ontario, and served on its board.
He was a fixture of the Manuscript Society’s annual Memorial Day weekend tours, which let him go behind the scenes of libraries and other institutional collections in different cities, such as Santa Fe, Pittsburgh and Oakland. In 2011, when the destination for the annual tour was Los Angeles, Mr. Hecht participated actively and happily in the planning. He took great pleasure in guiding his fellow members on a bus tour of the LA metropolitan area, his family shared.
His daughter, Lillian, also went to UCLA and was, in fact, married on the school’s campus. She is co-founder of Fourth & Heart, a pioneering producer of ghee, a clarified butter that has its origins in India.
Mr. Hecht had a large extended family, including members in Canada and Israel. He made an effort to keep in touch with them all, and was to some extent the linchpin that kept them connected.
He is survived by his daughter, Lillian Hecht Wunsch; and his sisters, Susan Hecht and Lauren Hecht Kaushansky.
A funeral took place November 20 at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, Mr. Hecht’s family requests that donations be made in his honor to the Midnight Mission, at midnightmission.org.