I never met the man but over the years met many who had worked with him and no one ever had anything but praise for him – none more so than David Fickling and James Riordan.
For 21 years Ron Heapy was the guru who oversaw the success of the children’s books department at Oxford University Press (OUP). Moving there in 1979, he found a demoralised outfit, which — in his own words — “felt like a mixture of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Strictly Glum Dancing’’. Facing him on his office wall was an apparently unmovable “grim chart with a graph going down and down like a staircase in a nouvelle vague film”. When sales started to improve and the graph started to climb, with yellow ducklings surreptitiously added to it all happily swimming upwards, it was finally taken down.
A man of huge energy and explosive enthusiasms, Heapy had a sharp eye for talent and a capacity to nurture this until it finally came good. Early on he spotted one Geraldine Jones, working unadventurously on English as a foreign language adaptations of classic texts. He told her to try a novel about a girl in modern times. She came up instead with A Little Lower than the Angels, a story about an apprentice stonemason set in the Middle Ages. Now writing under her married name Geraldine McCaughrean, she went on to produce many more distinctive stories over the years, winning many literary prizes.
full obit via the Times paywall Ron Heapy | Register | The Times & The Sunday Times.