Helen D. M. Heaton, 62, was Balto. attorney, political activist

March 09, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Helen D. M. Heaton, a retired attorney and political activist who enjoyed sailing the seas and walking Baltimore's streets, died Wednesday of cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 62.

Mrs. Heaton, a longtime Bolton Hill resident, maintained a lively interest in local Democratic politics. She worked on former Mayor William Donald Schaefer's campaigns, wrote position papers for former Gov. Harry R. Hughes' campaign and handled local constituent matters as a member of former Rep. Clarence D. Long's staff.

In 1974, she started work as a paralegal for the Baltimore firm of Allen, Johnson, Alexander & Karp. Four years later, she earned a law degree from the University of Maryland Law School and established a general practice in Annapolis.

"She represented people who were ineligible for a Legal Aid lawyer but were not capable of paying for representation by a regular lawyer," said her daughter, H. Claudia MacLachlan of Washington. "Her only payment might only [have been] a bushel of apples."

She rejoined her former law firm as an associate in 1984 and with John D. Alexander Jr., a partner in the firm, specialized in family law, concentrating on divorces, custody matters and adoptions.

"She was very effective with women because of her empathetic nature," Mr. Alexander recalled yesterday. "She was an extremely careful listener, was always ready with a smile and a suggestion for action. She had a dear heart." He described her as a "kind and spirited person who brought a lot of kindness and spirit to the profession. She brought a wonderful human balance to the practice of law, and you don't often see that."

After retiring in 1988, Mrs. Heaton spent the next three years sailing with her husband, Glenn E. Heaton, an artist, aboard their 30-foot catamaran.

"They sailed all alone from the Caribbean down the coast to Venezuela, back to Baltimore and later to Maine and the Bahamas aboard their boat," Ms. MacLachlan said.

Mrs. Heaton was an active member of the Women's Hamilton Street Club and volunteered in the children's library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's central branch. She also was a docent at Mount Clare Mansion.

"Her joy in communicating her appreciation of the Colonial period was equally evident whether she was discussing life at Mount Clare with Baltimore City third-graders or providing expert information to groups from such institutions as the Smithsonian," said Joan Feldman, museum director.

Mrs. Heaton enjoyed yoga and swimming, and had ridden her bicycle through France's Loire Valley several years ago. She also was a hiker who could be found ing Baltimore's many neighborhoods.

"When friends came to town she gave the most fascinating tours of the city. She loved Baltimore," Ms. MacLachlan said. Born in Burlington, Vt., the former Helen Denison Morison was raised in Roland Park and was a 1950 graduate of Bryn Mawr School. She studied at Reed College, eventually returning to college at night and earning a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1966.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to her husband of 37 years and daughter, she is survived by a son, Colin A. MacLachlan of Columbia; and a sister, the Rev. Priscilla R. Allen of St. Louis.

Pub Date: 3/09/96

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