WELL-DESERVED HONOR: Madison Regatta President Kim Washer (center) stands between retiring Madison Regatta Parade chairpersons Dottie Burress (left) and Merel Horton while recognizing both at last night’s membership meeting. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
WELL-DESERVED HONOR: Madison Regatta President Kim Washer (center) stands between retiring Madison Regatta Parade chairpersons Dottie Burress (left) and Merel Horton while recognizing both at last night’s membership meeting. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
The Madison Regatta honored several of its own during an abbreviated general membership meeting Wednesday at the VFW Post 1969.

The organization opened the meeting with a moment of silence for past president Wilbur "Wib" Heitz who died Monday after complications from hip surgery.

Heitz, who was 92, was involved in nearly every aspect of the Regatta in a career that spanned more than 40 years. Heitz served as president in 1973 and as race chairman in 1976. For the past 20 years, he was in charge of the Regatta's public address system and could be seen crawling all over the riverfront race week stringing wires and testing microphones.

Heitz also was involved with the governing body of the sport and along with his wife, Mary, served as official timer for the Unlimited Racing Commission, as H1 Unlimited was formerly called.

It was in the capacity as timer that Heitz developed the "blackout" clock to use as a countdown for the start of races. The clock was an orange circle that slowly turned black to let drivers know how much time was left before the flag dropped.

"This is a sad day. Wib meant a lot to the Regatta," Regatta President Kim Washer said. "He will be missed by everyone, especially me."

The Regatta also honored longtime parade chairpersons Merel Horton and Dottie Burress for their commitment to the organization. The pair started the parade during the Gold Cup year of 1971 and had run it every year since.

This year, changes in the insurance dictate that the City of Madison take over the running of the parade. Andrew Forrester, executive assistant to the mayor for community relations, was on hand to present the pair with plaques to honor their service.

"I volunteered with the Regatta in 1971 and I went to Dottie and asked her what I could do to help," Horton said. "She handed me a folder and all it said inside was 'parade.' We started literally from nothing and have worked hard on it. We're pretty proud of it."

In other business:

• The Regatta announced that Josh Gorley has resigned as assistant race chairman and will be replaced by Buddy Gaw. Gorley is returning to his capacity with safety and rescue.

• The Regatta plans on having an announcement in the coming weeks about a title sponsor for the 2013 race.

• The next Regatta meeting will be on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at the American Legion in downtown Madison. All Regatta members and any prospective members are encouraged to attend.