Cory Heft came home with a stained glass fish a few weeks ago.
“Hey, have you seen my new fish?” Heft excitedly asked his 14-year-old daughter and everyone else who had set foot in his home in South Annville Township.
Heft hung the fish in his front window for all to see.
Days after Heft made the purchase, on February 16, two masked people dressed in black broke into the home that Heft shared with his 14-year-old daughter, Cloe, at the Palm City trailer park.
Heft and his beloved dog, Rocky, were shot and killed during the burglary. One of the bullets lodged in Heft’s back near his spine, his family said. Suspects have not yet been publicly named or arrested.
The police said at the time that Heft was likely to survive. But he was home recovering on Tuesday February 22 when a blood clot entered his lungs, killing him. The date felt significant due to Heft’s penchant for palindromes and double numbers.
“He was a very thoughtful person who would take his shirt off for anyone,” said Heft’s friend Ophelia Loftus. “He would have helped the men who shot him if they had only asked.”
“We feel like we’re all living through a nightmare,” said Ashley Muldoon, a friend who has lived across the street from Heft for more than a decade. The two saw each other all the time and raised their children together.
Heft has been a pillar of the Pennsylvania Festival community. He traveled the state as a vendor, setting up booths that doubled as “general stores” for anything festival-goers might need — blankets, soup, sunglasses, and more. He was best known for collecting and making his own hat pins.
Heft’s family estimated that he sold more than 500 pins in his lifetime, making more than $10,000 in sales. A friend of Heft’s is selling a custom pin in his memory, with proceeds going to Cloe. A GoFundMe campaign was launched on her behalf.
“He’s always been our favorite seller because he was always the easiest to work with and always the nicest to everyone,” said Anthony ProCopio, founder of Threestival, a four-times-a-year festival that has a booth at the magazine would have.
“He’s always been known for hugging people, telling them he loves them and going shirtless. That was Cory,” ProCopio said.
Only after Heft’s death did his family realize how many people knew and loved him. Heft made hundreds of friends through concerts, festivals, or other trips, as well as through Facebook, where he was the administrator of several hatpin groups. The walls of his home are covered with works he bought from up-and-coming artists.
“He was a unique person,” said Sarah Telep, who met Heft while they worked side-by-side as vendors at music festivals across the state. “He really found the good in everyone. He always gave people the benefit of the doubt.”
“He’s had a positive impact on a lot of people,” said Tim Spence, one of Heft’s closest friends and Cloe’s godfather. “He touched so many lives.”
The Heft family would like to hold a celebration of the Life Ceremony when the weather is warmer so that more people can attend and gather outside.
Heft was a single father to Cloe and put her above everything else that was going on in his life, his family said.
Cloe was her father’s “sidekick” and would spontaneously accompany him on trips to Philadelphia, New York or the beach, family members said. They camped at Knoebel’s every year, and Cloe was always allowed to bring a friend or two.
The Hefts also loved kayaking in warmer weather or taking their pontoon boat out on the water, Cloe said. The Hefts listened to the same Sublime CD over and over again every time they got into their truck for the next trip.
If her father could give her one piece of parting advice, Cloe said, it probably would be, “Go ahead with your dreams, do what you want to do, and be yourself.”
Muldoon said Heft was the “neighborhood dad” who took Cloe and the neighborhood kids to swim on the Susquehanna River, ice skate, laser tag and bowl every Thursday.
Heft had many animals that went in and out of his house. He never intended to adopt another pet, but when he came across a dog in need, he couldn’t resist bringing it home. At the time of his death, Heft had three dogs, a cat, and some fish that lived in a tank in Cloe’s bedroom.
Rocky had to have one of his legs amputated after the shooting, the Heft family said. Another of Heft’s dogs, Casey, was originally believed to have been shot while chasing the suspects out of the home. But the family said he was found unharmed later in the night.
Cory’s brother Jeff Heft is now Cloe’s guardian. He also lives in Palm City and plans to move into Cory’s trailer to take care of her.
Cloe is about to start a job in the restaurant business at Hersheypark and is thinking about honoring her father, who would have been 42 on March 9th. She wants to keep going to festivals and one day designing her own hat pins.
“All I want is for Cloe to be proud of her father,” Spence said. “Whatever happens to the people who shot Cory is beyond our control.”
When her father got home from the hospital, Cloe said he told her, “I know that if I had died, you would be strong.”
She tries her best.
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