OXFORD Mail readers have been paying tribute to a 'genuine Oxford legend', Bill Heine.

The popular writer, broadcaster and journalist died on Tuesday night, aged 74, following a 21-month battle with cancer.

The American was diagnosed with a terminal form of leukaemia in July 2017 and had chronicled his fight against the disease in a weekly column in the Oxford Mail.

You can read readers' tributes below.

He continued writing up until his final days, revealing in his final piece on Friday that he was at home receiving end of life care.

READ ALSO: Bill Heine's life in pictures

Tributes poured in for the man behind Headington’s iconic shark house after news broke of his death yesterday morning.

Former Oxford Mail editor, Simon O’Neill, said: “So sad to hear Bill Heine has died. Oxford’s marvellous American friend and mine too.

“He deserves to be remembered for so much more than the shark house. God bless Bill.”

The American became a huge part of Oxford life during half a century in the city.

He wrote for the Oxford Mail and the now-defunct Oxford Star, while his instantly recognisable voice was a familiar presence on BBC Radio Oxford for more than three decades.

Mr Heine joined the station in 1983 and positioned himself as the ‘voice of the people who live in Oxfordshire’.

READ ALSO: Headington Shark recreated in LEGO

He interviewed many world-famous names, from Sir Roger Bannister to Ricky Gervais, and several leading politicians, including ex-Prime Ministers David Cameron and Gordon Brown, up until his final show in 2016.

The presenter was opinionated and sometimes controversial, but BBC Radio Oxford’s assistant editor, Will Banks, who worked with Mr Heine for many years, said this was a positive trait.

He said: “There was a fearless quality to Bill, which allowed him to explore the areas and ask the questions that others simply wouldn’t.

“He could incite genuine fear in those who were due a grilling, and in his producers who never knew where he was going to go next.

“But it was that unpredictability that defined Bill – a true one-off who refused to abide by convention and whose broadcasts were all the better for it.”

READ ALSO: More tributes to the broadcaster

The station’s editor, Tim Boswell, added: “He was an outstanding broadcaster with the ability to connect with his listeners through his intelligence, razor-sharp wit, and above all, his passion for the city and the people who live, work and study here.”

Mr Heine left a mark on the city’s culture, opening two independent cinemas, including the Ultimate Picture Palace in East Oxford.

Meanwhile, the 25ft-long fibreglass shark he installed in the roof of his house on New High Street, Headington, is an iconic Oxford landmark.

It was a shock to the city when Mr Heine revealed he had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia almost two years ago.

He was given 12 to 18 months to live and spent much of that time on a trial drug, which was stopped after 16 months after it stopped working.

READ ALSO: Bill Heine's final column

A glimmer of hope remained in the form of another ‘cutting edge’ trial drug, but Mr Heine revealed in his column on Friday that he had been disqualified due to fluid surrounding his heart.

This drew an outpouring of support from readers, including Oxford City Council’s executive board member for culture and the city centre, Mary Clarkson.

She said: “Such sad news. Bill you’ve added so much to Oxford life: colour, controversy and fun. You’ve put us councillors on the spot but you’ve been great company. Thanks for everything. Will miss you so much.”

The city council’s Liberal Democrat group leader, Andrew Gant, said: “I only knew him towards the end of his long and huge contribution to Oxford, but valued his open-spirited and good-humoured manner very much. A genuine Oxford legend.”

READ MORE HERE 

Did you know him? Or perhaps you have your own anecdote you'd like to share? Leave your tribute below. 

Bill Heine, RIP - leave your own tribute

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OOMF! (Oxfordshire's Own Millennium Festival) - on Saturday 1st July 2000 - did its own tribute to Bill's shark - look closely on the left of the stage!

OOMF! (Oxfordshire's Own Millennium Festival) - on Saturday 1st July 2000 - did its own tribute to Bill's shark - look closely on the left of the stage!
Community contributor

Sad, I remember once being very late for an appointment because Bill had started in on something and I couldn't stop listening, found a quiet corner of the car park and sat with the radio on for twenty minutes. A rare talent.

David Owen

Bill stands proudly in the rich history of Oxford as its greatest "mischieveer" (a title coined by another former Oxford mischieveer, Max Mason). It's not easy finding mentors and trailblazers like Bill. But we found each other not long after I moved to Oxford, and that made ALL the difference. Thanks, Bill, for demonstrating how real life's narrative can be spiced, sweetened, spiked, and sharpened to a level of vivacity normally reserved for fiction.

Ted Dewan

I spent some years working alongside bill on a difficult and dangerous project. Throughout this time he became a true friend and showed such bravery and strength in searching for the truth. We traveled many miles together and I will miss him so much . My deepest Sympathy to his family Joe

Joe Smith

sad news I meet bill at oxford town hall rest in peace bill the shark I remember headington

embassy ahmed

I met Bill when I was the Cycling Officer for Oxfordshire County Council in the early 1990's and Bill had a regular daytime slot on BBC Radio Oxford. He often used to phone me up without notice and interview me live on topical cycling issues. Usually my office colleagues were unaware that I was on air. He was somewhat rare in that he cared about the subject he reported on. I have been interviewed by the media before and since but was always left with the impression that the reporter was just going through the motions and certainly not prepared to challenge the status quo. Adieu Bill.

Philip Ashbourn

My wife and I got to know Bill Heine when we moved into New High Street, Headington, just six months after the Shark had been installed. Bill was always very welcoming and we attended the Shark's birthday parties ;and he dropped in on us from time to time. After we'd moved from Headington both my wife and I subsequently took part in debates and made individual contributions on and to Bill's Radio Oxford show, of which for me the most memorable was a debate on social class with Olive Gibbs and Janet Todd and me, skilfully moderated by Bill. He made sure I had equal air time against these two formidable senior Oxford politicans. Janet Todd tried very hard to shut me up, especially when I raised the divisiveness of private schools. I make this point to street how inclusive Bill was. Nor can my wife and I ever forget our many visits to 'Not the Moulin Rouge' which, along with Bill's other cinema 'The Renultimate Picture House", provided unqique access to films which would never have been shown in commercial cinemas. It was a particular sad day when 'Not The Moulin Rouge' was demolished to make way for a block of flats, a great loss to Headington in partucular and to Oxford as a whole. Meeting Bill in the street or at events from time to time was always a pleasure. Yes, of course, much much missed, by a very wide range of people. A unique presence in our midst. Many thanks, Bill, now and always ....

Bruce Ross-Smith

Controversial, independently minded and at times difficult. That’s one view of Bill Heine who died yesterday. But most people in Oxfordshire knew him as the champion of the city and county. The more difficult the cause, the more time he gave to get voices heard. “Mr Oxford” as Bill was often called seemed an unlikely champion of the underdog. He was an American that adopted Oxford as his home and Oxford adopted him. He survived a 30-year term as a radio broadcaster. The BBC is quoted as saying that he was an “integral part of BBC Radio Oxford”. I am sure that Bill would have preferred to have been called a “difficult part of Radio Oxford.” I saw that “difficult part” many times when in the studio at BBC Radio Oxford. Bill would invite a “co-presenter” in to sit on the opposite side of the desk and comment on the matters of the day. I must have been a co-presenter at least a dozen times in my role as Campaign Manager for CPRE Oxfordshire. Bill’s approach to the programme, which ran in the drivetimes slot on weekdays, was distinctive. Co-presenters were asked to arrive at the Summertown studios in good time. Bill would then sweep through reception saying: “Let’s get a coffee”. Off we would march around the corner to South Parade and Bill would order two coffees. We would talk about the programme and every couple of minutes Bill would say: “What’s the time?” I soon got to know this regime well. He would wait until three minutes before he was due in the studio. Then he would stride out the café without paying the bill. We would rush through reception arriving in the studio as the on-the-hour news was being read. On one occasion the producer stormed in to the studio, slammed down the running order for the programme saying: “You need to some work before the programme tomorrow.” But Bill was always well prepared. He lived and breathed Oxford and the county. In the studio he was generous in allowing time for his co-presenters. But he was a strict disciplinarian on timing. Ten seconds before the next item he would hold up his huge hands with fingers outstretched. At five seconds, he would begin counting down with this right hand. If he thought you were drifting off the subject or burbling on, he would imitate slitting his throat. In many of my interviews with him, we discussed the battle to save Radley Lakes – naturalised gravel pits that were one of the county’s best nature reserves. Bill always allowed time for Radley Lakes, even when the station managers tried to get the topic off air because it flooded the phone lines. He always took a neutral view but I am sure that we would not have saved Radley Lakes without his support for airing local voices. Bill Heine will be remembered for the Headington Shark. It was a remarkable expression of anger against the destructive state of our world. He should also be remembered as a man dedicated to Oxford and Oxfordshire. As a man that gave a voice to ordinary people across the county. As Oxfordshire’s friend.

Andy Boddington

My husband and I used to listen to Bill's radio show. When my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour we married a week later. I wrote and asked Bill where I could buy a signed copy of his book for Si to read in hospital. Instead on his radio show the morning after my husband's operation he sent warmest congratulations on our wedding, a get well soon message and posted a copy of his book with the warmest get well soon message. He was there for us. A truly kind man. RIP.

contributed by community

One of the very few adults that impressed me when I was young as he spoke with passion and realness and never ending dry wit .

contributed by community

I met Bill Heine here over two years ago in 2017. He was tall, very distinguished and friendly. He came over to me and said Hi what do you think of the exhibition. He was lovely. I loved how he adored Oxford. His excentricitity and his passion for life. RIP Bill Heine.

I met Bill Heine here over two years ago in 2017. He was tall, very distinguished and friendly. He came over to me and said Hi what do you think of the exhibition. He was lovely. I loved how he adored Oxford. His excentricitity and his passion for life. RIP Bill Heine.
Julie Randall

Frankly he took the life out of Radio Oxford when he left. RIP Mr Heine, your bravery during your final fight has been amazing.

contributed by community

How well I remember when The Shark dropped onto New High Street. I was Manager of Buckell and Ballard Estate Agents in Headington. That morning we launched sale of a house almost opposite called Stoneshire. Imagine our sheer incredulity when the tedious routine of a Saturday morning was completely skewed by the arrival of this remarkable sculpture ! The whole experience was surreal. We feared the worst and yet achieved a brilliant response with a sale agreed that same day. I followed Bill Heine’s remarkable account of his challenge with cancer in the Oxford Mail. His candid honestly and stoicism right up until last Friday’s report is a fine tribute to this mercurial character. From the moment that shark impacted on Headington’s domestic normality he maintained a lasting impression as a true Giant of Oxford.

How well I remember when The Shark dropped onto New High Street.
I was Manager of Buckell and Ballard Estate Agents in Headington.
That morning we launched sale of a house almost opposite called Stoneshire.
Imagine our sheer incredulity when the tedious routine of a Saturday morning was completely skewed by the arrival of this remarkable sculpture !
The whole experience was surreal. We feared the worst and yet achieved a brilliant response with a sale agreed that same day. 
I followed Bill Heine’s remarkable account of his challenge with cancer in the Oxford Mail. His candid honestly and stoicism right up until last Friday’s report is a fine tribute to this mercurial character. 
From the moment that shark impacted on Headington’s domestic normality he maintained a lasting impression as a true Giant of Oxford.
Community contributor

Having been born and bred in Oxford, Bill Heine was someone who’s name I heard a lot - especially with a father who was an architect hearing how Bill had beaten planning! Then always taking a detour home to go and see the shark in my teens! Life is short- be like Bill- make it fun. RIP x

Clare Farley

‪Readers might want to know that the Churchill Day Treatment Unit (DTU), where Bill was treated, are doing a sponsored walk - I'm sure a donation (for extra comfy treatment chairs, etc.) would help boost their morale in these difficult times. ‬Bill found the treatment visits something of a bore - "blood transfusions are very slow" he told me recently (the blood really does go in slowly), not that he was at all ungrateful for the treatment and the chance trial drugs offered.. the hope it gave him, even though, in the end, his trial treatment ceased to help. He had plans for a living wake celebration of his life, all very positive under the circumstances, only a few weeks ago when we met. ‪Donations to Churchill Day Treatment Unit online here:‬ ‪https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/dtu‬ - the page is self-explanatory.

‪Readers might want to know that the Churchill Day Treatment Unit (DTU), where Bill was treated, are doing a sponsored walk - I'm sure a donation (for extra comfy treatment chairs, etc.) would help boost their morale in these difficult times. ‬Bill found the treatment visits something of a bore -
Community contributor

Headington's world-famous shark was actually a protest against the bombing of Lybia. It takes real character and independence of thought to go against the Establishment; especially when the bombs are falling. Mr. Heine certainly had character and resilience. The loss of his character weakens Oxford because to speak the truth today requires people to be as bold as Mr. Heine was.

Chaka Artwell

Always happy to support fundraising outside the city, he was often seen at our. Illag3 jumble sales to raise money for our village primary school, always has time for people, He will be missed by many

contributed by community

Sad, sad news. His weekly column was very readable. Sometimes cutting and to the point … sometimes describing the frustrations of cancer … sometimes humorous, sometimes just sad but always honest. I never met Bill but I felt I knew him well. He managed to connect. He will be missed. RIP

Graham Rose

I first Bill when I was interviewed by him now in the late ‘80’s. Knowing his reputation as a tough interviewer I thought that I, as a vicar, was in for a challenging time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We became good friends, and Bill often invited me on to his show if he needed the Church’s view on some issue. I’m so sad to hear of his death. A truly great broadcaster.

Roger Humphreys

Oxford has lost an iconic part of the city – and I'm not talking about the shark which he put up. i'm talking about the man Bill was a maverick - why on earth would he choose me –a small local imprint/Oxfordfolio- to publish The Hunting of The Shark when he could have had the pick of the big boy publishers? I believe it was because he simply could, he liked doing the unexpected (and perhaps liked what I could do). He was also enigmatic with an air of mystery and kept me on my toes - I never quite knew what was going to happen next. He was also very brave and forthright as his cancer dairies in The Oxford Mail testify. So long Bill, you always gave as good as you got especially on your final journey.

Oxford has lost an iconic part of the city – and I'm not talking about the shark which he put up. i'm talking about the man
Bill was a maverick - why on earth would he choose me –a small local imprint/Oxfordfolio- to publish The Hunting of The Shark when he could have had the pick of the big boy publishers? I believe it was because he simply could, he liked doing the unexpected (and perhaps liked what I could do).  He was also enigmatic with an air of mystery and kept me on my toes - I never quite knew what was going to happen next. He was also very brave and forthright as his cancer dairies in The Oxford Mail testify. So long Bill, you always gave as good as you got especially on your final journey.
James Harrison

Sad to hear about Bill today, never knew him but he will always be remembered as the the man who had the Shark House in Headington.....thinking of his family at this sad time

Donna Cassettari

Bill ,is part of my life as with many others. We worked well together on projects that never met the eyes of the public. That was Bill all over ,the amazing and tireless work ,he did behind the scenes,helping so many people.I enjoyed being on his radio shows with him and although I could say soo much ,the most important thing to say is ..THANK YOU ,DEAR BILL . From Sandra .

Sandra King

So sad to hear such an iconic man with such amazing presence has passed. Oxford will miss him. RIP Bill Heine. Thoughts to his family and friends.

Tina Pattison

Good old Bill. I attended the fabulous street party he threw for his shark - what a cool thing to do! I enjoyed spotting him around and about . One time I was in a charity shop in Headington and I found one of his books. I went up to the till to pay for it and who should walk in but Bill himself! I asked him to sign it, which he happily did, and we had a great chat. My thoughts on Bill is that he was an interesting, fun bloke who loved life and wanted to try new things. His wanting to stay in the UK because of the NHS was also a lovely, idealistic thing and I am glad he felt his beloved NHS met his needs during his illness. A true Oxford legend forever. Xxxx

Sarah Moran

So sad to hear of Bill Heine's passing. I didn't know him, but always looked forward to seeing "The Shark House" when my kids were at various Oxford Colleges. RIP and thanks, Bill.

Fil Baker

Very sad news this morning, Bill was a true Oxford Legend and will be greatly missed. I had the honour of co-hosting his show with a friend some 15 years ago on BBC Radio Oxford and he was such a kind and caring man. He made sure we were well looked after and couldn't have done more for us. Rest In Peace Bill, gone but never forgotten.

Ben Drew-Smythe

Inspirational , courageous , imaginative , humane . The world will be a lesser place without Bill. Rest in peace Bill , you will be missed by so very many people ❤️

Anne Hallett

Bill, your belly laugh & dancing moustache each time we discussed another ridiculous scheme madeevery foray into the farcical worthwhile. As long as you lived Oxford had a ringleader of mischief - You and your big flowing coats will be sorely missed.

Maxwell Mason