VALENTINA LIGDAFemale View treeBorn: 1886-07-31Died: 1983=07-21
Children: none

Val was the last of nine children born to Victor & Emilie Ligda.  She was born on July 31, 1886 at the family home at 20 Rue Arbalet (5th Dist.), in Paris.   Val was not yet three when her family moved to the United States.  Little is known of her early years except that, while playing with matches, she set a fire which burned the dining room and kitchen of the family home on Bay Street in San Francisco. 1

Oakland records show Val’s enrollment in school in 1902, but there is no record of her actual attendance.  She may have been withdrawn after her father’s death and the subsequent family move from 233 Harlan to 675 33rd Street in that year.  Val says she did attend school and she is listed as a student in the 1903 and 1904 city directories.  Her son said she was an Oakland High School graduate.  After graduation, she remained at home with her mother.  She did not work outside the home.  As a young lady, she was described as easy going and of a happy disposition. 2

Around 1906 when she was 20, Val became attractive to Dr. George W. Hillegass who her Brother Paul, described as: ” . . . a wealthy bachelor of 42 or so . . . very nice, of perfect manners and well educated.”  Dr. Hillegass was close to many of the family because of his financial interest in the brothers’ compound business.  Val and Dr. Hillegass dated over the next several years.  She described him as quite charming, very wealthy, and said that he took her to all the elegant spots.  On 4/2/10, he sent her a postcard from Avalon with the salutation, “My dear Valentina,” and ending, “Your very devoted.”  They were together as the witnesses to the marriage of her Brother Pete to Agnes Magneson on 12/14/10.

Apparently her brothers, Paul, Alec, and Pete expected Val to marry Dr. Hillegass and that the marriage would insure his continuing support of their business.  The problem was that Val did not love Hillegass; and on January 31, 1912, she married Phil Heuer, 3 then 36 (Hillegass would have been 48).  The ceremony was at the Key Route Inn, Broadway & Grand Aves., in Oakland.  They honeymooned at the Coronado Hotel in San Diego and at the Alexandra Hotel in Los Angeles.

After Val’s marriage to Phil, Dr. Hillegass lost interest in the family business and slowly withdrew his support. 4  The business failed shortly thereafter.  Paul, Pete, and Alec were out of work.  Pete abandoned his wife and daughter.  There were some bitter feelings towards Val from those in the family who felt she should have married Hillegass.  Her older sister, Olga, wrote Paul from Russia on 11/24/12:

“About Val, I found her out 10 years ago when I came to see you about that time.  I knew that she did not love any one of you, but you all sided with her against me and my Ollie, that I thought the best way for me was to leave you all to yourself and decided that I had no more brothers or mother anymore.”

Phil and Val rented their first home at 1026 E. 28th Street in Oakland.  They lived there six years.  Their only child, Phil Jr., was born November 15, 1913 in Oakland.  In 1918, they bought the home they were to live in essentially the rest of their lives at 932 E. 28th Street in.  Val took a real interest in her home.  Her son remembers her as a good mother: always thoughtful, helpful, and supporting.  There were family trips to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

As her husband made a comfortable living, Val stayed at home to raise their son.  The Heuer’s financial position contrasted with her brothers financial struggles and tended to keep some distance between Val and Paul and Alec.  After the death of her mother in 1926, Alec felt Val was keeping property that should have been his.  On 8/3/28, Paul wrote:

“I went to Valentine’s house armed with a formal document from Alec demanding some stuff that was stored there.  I was received like a long lost brother.  All the pent up affection that Val has been accumulating for years landed on me.  She gave me all the stuff claimed . . . She professed a great love for Alec.”

In the early 1930’s, Val was very ill.  That experience helped her to understand her sister-in-law’s depression after Paul’s death in 1932.  Val spent considerable time visiting and trying to cheer Edith.  She was not successful and eventually gave up.  While calling on Edith, she met her Nephew Victor’s wife, Caroline, who described her in 1933 as: ” . . . the hotsy totsy kind . . . Beautiful home and one stuck up brat – a boy 20.”  Caroline mentions Val again in 1938 complaining: ”  I had to listen to her brag about the Ligda clan for 2 hours.”

Val was very close to her brother, Vladimir, and was the sole beneficiary of his estate of $32,265 when he died in 1940.  During the war, she did local charity work.  She was the only member of the family who looked after the welfare of her Brother Alec, who died in 1945.

Phil Heuer retired in 1946 after 48 years with the Saint Paul Insurance Companies.  He held an emeritus membership in the Olympic Club where he remained active for many years.  He died on June 17, 1971. 5   Val continued to live in the family home on East 28th Street.  Phil Jr. 6, took a half day off work each week to visit and take his mother to dinner and spend the night.  He maintained this routine until 1975 when Val’s health declined to the point she needed convalescent care.  Phil Jr. had her placed in Hillhaven Convalescent Hospital in Menlo Park near his Palo Alto home.  She remained in good health until 1981 when her sight and her hearing began to decline.  She died quietly on July 21, 1983.  She was cremated.  There were no services.


  1. The story about the fire is confirmed in part by entries in the San Francisco Directories which show the family moving from 722 Bay Street to 2109 Jones Street in 1891
  2. Her nephew, Ted, says Val experimented with drugs during her 20’s and had to be placed in a sanitarium for treatment.  I found no confirmation of this allegation.
  3. Phil was born March 2, 1876 in San Francisco, California and was employed in the insurance industry with Saint Paul Companies where he had been 14 years.  Val had known him at least two years.  There is correspondence from Phil to Val as early as 5/21/10 with the salutation, “Hello Oakland,” and on 8/18/10 with the salutation, “Hello Sweetheart.”  In August, 1911, Val went on a trip to Lake Tahoe and wrote that Phil and Alec were along.
  4. Dr. Hillegass later disappeared without claiming a $150,000 estate left him by his sisters and a portion of another estate left him by an aunt.  On 2/16/27, there was an article in the Oakland Tribune about a body brought to California from New York to determine if it was that of Dr. Hillegass.
  5. A 1955 article in the Saint Paul Letter described Phil as: “a frequent and welcome visitor to the Oakland and San Francisco Offices . . . happily and actively engaged in many activities in the Bay Area,” and mentioned that he successfully served as chairman of a committee which sold $2,000,000 in bonds to expand and modernize the Olympic Club facilities.
  6. Phil Heuer Jr. married Maxine Kale on April 29, 1951.  They had no children.  Phil died December 20, 2000.