Deborah ‘Debbi’ Katharine Heller, of Needham, MA, passed away Thursday, October 27, at home surrounded by her loving family. She is survived by her devoted husband of 37 years, Jeffrey Heller, and three children, Jessica Heller, Kristin Heller and her partner Jacob Speer, and Garrett Heller. Debbi is also survived by her four younger brothers, Preston ‘Pete’ and wife Dawn Hall, James and wife Sharon Hall, Thomas and wife Christine Hall, and David and wife Katrina Hall, and her brother in law William and wife Maureen Heller, as well as 14 nieces and nephews.
Debbi was born on April 6, 1955 in Holden, MA, and grew up in West Boylston, MA. From an early age she was a lover of nature and excelled as a swimmer on a synchronized swimming team. She was talented in sewing, embroidery, and knitting. She attended Ithaca College, where she met lifelong friends, and studied physical therapy, graduating in 1977. She moved back to Massachusetts to begin her career as a physical therapist in orthopedics.
She then got a Masters Degree in Anatomy from Boston University and transitioned to academia. She taught anatomy and physical therapy at the PT graduate program at Simmons College for over 15 years. She was a beloved professor and advisor and one student each year receives the Deborah Heller Award for Outstanding Achievement in Physical Therapy.
She moved to Needham in 1980, married Jeff in 1985 and raised their three children there.
She never let MS define her. She continued working, and as the symptoms mounted she made accommodations to continue the lifestyle and love of life she always had. With the support of multiple caregivers and her husband, she continued with her interests and hobbies. She traveled, cooked, read, gardened, attended concerts and enjoyed nature and outdoor activities. Despite the MS taking away her mobility, it never dampened her joyous spirit or enthusiasm for life and those she loved.
Visiting hours will be held at Eaton Funeral Home in Needham, MA, on Friday, November 11 from 4-7pm. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 12 at 3pm at First Parish UU Church in Needham, MA, with a reception to follow. The service will also be live streamed.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the National MS Society.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
PO Box 541617, Waltham MA 02454-1617