Ted Hellier, award-winning South Portland volunteer and coach, succumbs to cancer
SOUTH PORTLAND — In a well-traveled and colorful life, three things stood out for Edward "Ted" Hellier.
"If he wasn't talking about his kids, it was lacrosse and solar," Susan Hellier said Tuesday, one day after her husband died of cancer at age 57.
After an itinerant youth that took him from his birthplace in Detroit to Southborough, Mass.; Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.; Florida; Texas, and eventually St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Hellier settled in the Portland area, where met his wife.
After the birth of their daughter, Eliza, Hellier began volunteering at the Community Center, including playing Santa in the annual North Pole Calling gatherings.
A lacrosse player in school, Hellier began planting roots for the sport in the city by playing catch with his son, Edward Marlow, known as "T-Moe." His son would use a baseball glove, while Hellier used a lacrosse stick.
The inception of youth lacrosse programs in the city Recreation Department helped get T-Moe and his peers into the sport. But when his son reached middle school age, Hellier continued to coach younger children.
"'There is a place on the lacrosse field for every kid,' was his motto," Susan said. Hellier spent nine years coaching lacrosse and coached baseball and basketball, too.
City recreation coordinator Sabrina Best said Hellier had organizational strengths to match his coaching abilities.
"The great thing about working with Ted in lacrosse, he would sit down once a year and he'd say 'don't worry,'” Best said. "He did a great job at taking care of the minor headaches I would normally have to deal with."
A stickler for fundamentals and teaching the game properly, Hellier also showed a quiet strength in working with other coaches if games got too rough or parents who were too effusive.
"Ted had no problem approaching another coach and saying things are getting out of hand, but doing it in a respectful manner," Best said. "He always wanted anyone who watched (lacrosse) and played it to be respectful of the sport.”
His demeanor was the same off the field, his wife recalled.
"He was a joy to be around," she said. "He never said a bad word about anyone."
A carpenter by trade, Hellier once taught Spanish and bee-keeping to students at the Deck House School in Edgecomb. He built the family home to be as sustainable as possible, with cork floors, and solar power and heating. Before his cancer diagnosis last year, he installed solar thermal systems.
A family cottage in Boothbay, designed to be entirely off the energy grid, will be completed despite Hellier's death, his wife said.
Although highly visible in the Madras plaids he favored for shirts and slacks, Hellier was still not fully comfortable with the attention and accolades he received over the last year.
Best nominated Hellier for the Maine Parks and Recreation Association Citizen Volunteer of the Year Award, and recalled he was humbled when he won.
"He did not want the limelight, but people need to know what he meant to people," she said. "You always knew if you were his friend. He was always making sure other people knew what they meant to him."
On Wednesday, Hellier was posthumously named Man of the Year by coaches in the Maine chapter of U.S. Lacrosse at the all-star game for seniors played at Thornton Academy in Saco.
Visiting hours for Hellier are 4-7 p.m. Friday, June 21, at Conroy-Tully Crawford, 1024 Broadway.