Vaughan Heppe’s compassion, musical skills and fearless nature will long be remembered, according to family and friends.
Heppe, 25, was found dead in Fort Walton Beach on Oct. 4, law enforcement officials confirmed. The Oregon man’s body was found in Santa Rosa Sound, after he was reported missing Oct. 2. Heppe was the son of Steve and Mary Jane Heppe of Hood River. He has an older brother, Kenan.
“He was always full of life and optimism and showed amazing care and compassion for others. He had an impact on a lot of peoples’ lives,” said a friend, Steve Grace of Hood River.
“Vaughan was a witty, lively, insightful addition to our class in 2009-10,” said English teacher Nan Noteboom in an email. “I will never forget his Hood River apple ad, in which he dressed in drag, sporting large, juicy apples as … curves. He was such a great combination of goofy and sharp. He will be deeply missed.”
Another HRVHS teacher, Matt Kennedy, wrote in an email, “The most difficult thing about being an educator are those times when we lose young ones. It’s especially painful to lose someone like Vaughan. Of course, he was a talented student, musician, and athlete. But I’ll always remember his charming smile and the good-natured look of mischief in his eyes. He was a great guy. My heart goes out to his family, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’m so sorry.”
Mary Jane Heppe said Monday that the family would bring Vaughan’s cremated remains home on Saturday. Vaughn was a 2010 Hood River Valley High School graduate, and a musician. He had performed with several bands, including getting his start as a teenager with fellow HRVHS musicians in the band Sunderland. He left the band, now known as Flor, several years ago.
He had been staying at a Mary Esther hotel with his father, who was in the area on business.
Heppe was considered “missing and endangered” by local law enforcement officials, who put out a Be On the Lookout for him Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Heppe’s body was found floating by a boat slip in the Santa Rosa Sound around 2:30 p.m., according to a press release from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
There were no initial indications of foul play, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. An autopsy was to be conducted by the First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner’s Office. The case remains under investigation.