By Bob Katzen
This week’s column is dedicated to Helen Woodman Harrington who died at the age of 74 on January 23. Helen was the former owner of the well-respected State House News Service from 1979 until she sold it in 1996. She was one of a kind and one of the nicest people I’ve known during my 42 years in the Statehouse reporting business. She and I go way back to the 1970s and she was always helpful and kind to me. She will be missed by so many.
The State House News Service’s Michael Norton and the Political Almanac’s Craig Sandler both worked with her for years. “Her low-key demeanor, patience and gentle humor caused everyone who worked with her to think a little more about what they were doing and enjoy it more as well,” said the pair in a joint story they wrote upon her passing. “It made her universally respected and often loved by the politicians, staffers and journalists with whom she dealt, and there were thousands. She believed in giving every side of a story a fair chance, every person a fair shake, and every issue thoughtful treatment.”
Norton and Sandler continued, “She did not like bullies or blowhards or public officials who were in it only for themselves. On the other hand, she did not at all care for the simple-minded assumption on the part of too many journalists that all politicians were crooked, or more tellingly, that their less savory aspects were their only aspects. As the business grew increasingly dumbed-down and hasty to assume the worst, she counseled her reporters to understand the complexity of everyone’s character, and she was unashamed at seeking to find the good in people.”
The pair notes that Helen had a tremendous sense of humor and never stopped her staffers from having a good time, and they in turn matched her endless capacity for long hours and hard work. Her passions were uncomplicated and robust: she adored her White Mountains home, Poolside and following its natural rhythms season to season. She loved having her nieces and nephews and their kids there. She loved golfing at the North Conway Country Club.”
They noted that Helen’s late husband Bill Harrington, the love of her life, himself an accomplished reporter for WCVB-TV, were the kind of people who carried cards with his preferred Manhattan mixing procedure.
“She left an indelible mark on the journalism of her time and beyond,” Norton and Sandler concluded.
Visiting hours followed by a short memorial service will be held Thursday, Feb. 9 from 4-7 p.m. at the Beals-Geake-Magliozzi Funeral Home in Medford.
R.I.P. Helen. We miss you already.