As related by Joseph Heller, he and his brother were childhood friends of Richard Feynman in Far Rockaway, New York. Mr. Heller's older brother, Elmer, was born in the same year as Feynman but apparently was a year ahead in school. The two were good friends because of their mutual interest in mathematics and science. Both attended Far Rockaway High School, from which they graduated in 1934 and 1935 respectively. Joseph Heller was a few years younger; his birth year is not clearly stated in information conveyed to the Caltech Archives. Elmer W. Heller attended Purdue University where he majored in mechanical engineering, and Feynman attended MIT. The bulk of the letters and postcards exchanged between Elmer Heller and Feynman date from the years 1935 and 1936 when both were in college. According to an interview recorded with Joseph Heller by the Caltech Archives, Elmer Heller worked in Palmer Laboratory at Princeton University on the Manhattan Project along with Feynman during World War II. There are no letters between Heller and Feynman in the collection after 1940. According to the same interview, Elmer Heller resided in Israel for some years after the war but returned to the US to Los Angeles in the early to mid-1950s, when he joined North American Rockwell. Joseph Heller also moved to Los Angeles where he reestablished contact with Richard Feynman in the 1950s when Feynman had been recruited to Caltech. Elmer Heller also reportedly had contact with Feynman in the same period. Further information about early years in Far Rockaway and later contacts, as well as about early friends and relationships--including concerning Feynman's first wife, Arline Greenbaum--is available in Joseph Heller's oral history of May 5, 2010. Elmer Heller died on June 13, 2009, in Laguna Hills, California. An obituary was published in the Los Angeles Times on June 20, 2009.
From the guide to the Elmer and Joseph Heller Collection on Richard P. Feynman, 1935-1990, (California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives)