As many of you might have heard by now, Helen Heinsohn, the wife of Tommy and the famed “redhead from Needham” passed away, presumably from her long battle with brain cancer. We are all truly and deeply saddened by her passing and our hearts go out to Tom and the rest of the family.
I had the pleasure of dining with Helen and Tommy one night before a game a few years ago. I was doing a story on Mike Gorman and, by chance, I ended up alone in the press room with Tommy and Helen. As Tommy ignored me in favor of dinner, Helen gave me the first degree: What was I writing? Who was I? Where was I from? She was his mouthpiece, his protector, and the gatekeeper of his image. Any reporter who ever called the Heinsohn house had to get by Helen first. It was the job she did with great pride and voracity.
However, there was more to Helen, who had a quick memory, a sharp wit, and at times a razor tongue. She told me that for a time she worked as an assistant to a private detective in Los Angeles, that was where she met Tommy (I’m still pissed I didn’t ask how they met.) I can just imagine her back then as some sort of redheaded firecracker straight out of a Raymond Chandler book and that’s one of the ways I’ll choose to remember her.
The other way I want to remember Helen is the way most of us around the Celtics community knew her; Walking the sidelines of the Garden before a game, saying hello to friends and well wishers, dressed in a stylish hat with a shock of red hair peaking out the back. Even as her health took a turn, she kept her style and grace and most importantly, her attitude. The Garden will be just a little dimmer from now on without her and — while I don’t want to even think about it — my heart is broken for Tommy, who will have to go on now without his best bodyguard and friend.
I hope she has some peace now from the horrible illness that afflicted her for years and I hope all of you pause for a moment to think about the passing of another good soul from this earth, thanks to this horrible, horrible scourge of cancer.
Rest in Peace Helen. If there’s any consolation, you won’t have to spend any more Friday nights going to basketball games.
Here’s a nice story on the Heinsohn’s from a few years ago.
And you can send your condolences to the family by clicking here