THE OTHER HALF
She was a pretty young thing sitting in the NBC newsroom and laughing hysterically as she read Rally Round the Flag by Max Shulman. Helane Hecht was a production assistant at the Camel News Caravan with John Cameron Swayze, which was NBC’s first attempt at a nightly news show.
Her laughter attracted Alan Smith and he came over to see what was so funny. They clicked from the beginning. Five months later they were married, and now this Sanibel couple is preparing to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
In the 1950s and early 60s, Helane was a stay- at- home mom in New Rochelle, N. Y., but not for long. Once the kids were old enough, she went back to work, taking a job in the quality- control department of a Band- Aid factory where she worked on an assembly line. “It was a scene out of Lucy [ I Love Lucy],” she recalls, referring to the hilarious episode where Lucille Ball couldn’t keep up with the assembly line in a chocolate factory and wound up eating half the product. Helane’s co- workers were local Italians, who didn’t speak English and communicated with hand signals and smiles. Not exactly the job for this ambitious young mom.
Looking for a challenge, Helane entered law school. After graduation she landed a job in corporate law and later opened her own practice, retiring 10 years ago. However retired in Periwinkle Park is not quite accurate. This 82- year- old dynamo is always on the go, volunteering right along side her other half.