September 2014 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Bob Heller

Luck of the Irish

By Marilyn McAdoo


When I told my friend Bob Heller that we had been asked to profile his life and career, he asked, "Why me?" Well, it's because of the indelible mark he has left on the myriad people who know him.

Bob is part of a close-knit family, the oldest of four siblings. He is a people person and has been all of his life. In high school, his senior classmates voted him "Most Friendly" in his class. Anyone who knows Bob today wouldn't be surprised by that high school honor.

His parents taught their children the importance of family, hard work and treating people with respect. He has lived his life following those rules. His sister Anne talks about his sense of family and his connection to people. His brother Tom says Bob is his best friend. While in college, Bob would invite Tom to visit and stay at the fraternity with Bob and his buddies. Tom said of that, "How many guys in college would bring their younger brother (a sophomore in high school) to visit?"

Bob is Irish through and through, and he kissed the Blarney Stone years ago. Bob traveled to Ireland for the first time at age 10 and spent the summer with relatives there. His mother and aunt were Irish dancers as young girls and his grandfather was an Irish fiddler. He returned to Ireland in 1995 and was impressed by the spontaneous musical events and storytelling by the Irish people.

There was nothing like it in the United States and he "had to figure it out!" He called his mom and had their old, unused fiddle shipped to him, had it repaired and took lessons. He learned to play tunes by ear and then started "collecting" friends who also played. Bob worked to recreate those "spontaneous" music sessions at his house. He recently moved the spontaneity to Sake Nomi in Pioneer Square where he fiddles around with a few of his internationally known Irish musician friends.

Bob is a Wesleyan University alumnus and captained its football team in 1973. He played first-string center, ahead of his teammate, longtime friend, and New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who played second-string center. Bob was in his hippie days back then: long hair, relaxed, friendly, but somewhat unfocused except when it came to football. Having twice been honored as a first team, small college All-American, he was inducted into the Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

Of his time at Wesleyan, Bob said he "spent four years trying to avoid a quality education, but did not succeed." He graduated in 1974, not certain of his ultimate career goal.

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