VALPARAISO, Fla. - Heyward H. Strong Jr., age 89, of Valparaiso, passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, after a courageous battle with COVID.

Heyward was born on Sept. 18, 1931, in Sumter, to Victoria Thames and Heyward Hazel Strong Sr. On June 9, 1953, he married his high school sweetheart, Inez Richardson, and was a loving and faithful husband for 67½ years. Together, Heyward and Inez raised five children. He served as a faithful member of First Baptist Church of Valparaiso and First Baptist Church on Bayshore of Niceville for 63 years. Heyward was a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Later he earned an MBA from FSU.

Following graduation, Heyward served two years with IBM in New York and Jacksonville, then was called into the military as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for two years. Not wanting to leave the local area of Valparaiso, Heyward served for more than 44 years in all levels of engineering, research, development, test and evaluation, strategic planning and systems acquisition for conventional munitions at Eglin AFB. In addition, in 1966, he began a lifelong selfless service for the city of Valparaiso, beginning on the Valparaiso Planning Board, then as a city commissioner, mayor pro tem and mayor for a total of 48 years as an elected official. During his service as city commissioner, he served on the Okaloosa County League of Cities, the Northwest Florida League of Cities, the Florida League of Cities, the National League of Cities and the Okaloosa County Gas Board, as well as numerous other volunteer positions within the community as needed.

Heyward will be deeply missed by all who loved him. Heyward is survived by his wife, Inez Strong; children, Robert Strong of Orlando, Florida, Vicki Strong of Freeport, Florida, Patrick Strong and wife, Nancy, of Baker, Florida, Marcena Strong Bohler of Valparaiso and Nancy Estep and husband, Gene, of Valparaiso. He was a loving papa to his grandchildren, Jeremy, Stefanie, Nic, Kelly, Brenden, Maegan, John, Joshua, Joey, Dylan, Van, Nathan, Ally, Gabe, Eli, Patrick and Victoria; and great-grandchildren, Art, Teddy, Baby Finn and Baby Graham. He was a loving and thoughtful brother to James H. Strong and wife, Frances; brother-in-law, Robert Richardson and wife, Betsy; and sister-in-law, Ann Boykin and husband, C.W., all of Sumter; in addition to his numerous extended family and friends.

Funeral services will be conducted at 2 p.m. on Sunday at First Baptist Church on Bayshore, Niceville, followed by interment at Sunset Cemetery, Valparaiso.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests those who wish to express sympathy to consider a donation to the First Baptist Church on Bayshore Benevolence Fund.

Expressions of love and sympathy may be viewed and placed at www.mclaughlintwincities.com.

Emerald Coast Funeral Home & Reception Center of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, is in charge of arrangements.