I’ll never forget my introduction to Heather Walker.
It was a late morning in February 2020, about a month before the entire world was to shut down, and my cell phone rang. Recognizing the number of the Boston Celtics, I answered.
“Hi, this is Heather Walker, Vice President of Media with the Celtics,” the voice on the other end said. “Is Danny Ainge aware of those pictures you used of him in your magazine?”
Our Winter 2020 magazine, featuring Ainge, then the Celtics President of Operations, on the cover had recently been released and apparently Heather, who always had her finger on the pulse of everything media related with the organization was just seeing the cover and photos for the first time.
A bit befuddled, I stumbled a little in my reply:
“Well yes,” I mustered. “He was aware of what we were shooting and what it was for.”
“Wait,” she said back to me, processing what I just told her. “That was your photoshoot?”
“Yes,” I admitted, now a little concerned I may have done something wrong by -you know- not notifying the woman in charge of all Celtics media that I was doing something with the President of the organization.
“How in the world did you pull that off?” she asked.
“Bob Ryan (via Nick Gelso) just sent Mr. Ainge a text, and..”
“That explains everything,” Heather laughed. “I’ve been trying to get Danny to do a private shoot with ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and other national publications and he hasn’t committed. You legit had one of two people Danny would say ‘yes’ to (the other being Jackie MacMullan.) Congratulations, the article and photos are fantastic!”
Heather would go on to further complement our young publication, proposing a story angle for our upcoming spring magazine, which we agreed to on Tacko Fall, Enes Kanter and the international ‘big men’ of the Boston Celtics.
For our interview and introduction to Fall and Kanter, Heather made the dreams of eight-year-old burgeoning sports journalist Matt Ribaudo come true by inviting me on February 13th to sit in Press Row as a media member (press pass and all) of the Los Angeles Clippers vs Celtics game, a thrilling 141-133 come-from-behind overtime victory for the C’s, with the atmosphere at The Garden absolutely rocking.
Over the next few years, Heather would be instrumental in the growth of BostonMan Magazine, providing us valuable access to the Celtics for stories, images, and experiences with the team. More importantly, she became someone I could trust and consider a friend in this often cutthroat business.
THIS SPRING, as her Boston Celtics geared up for the NBA playoffs and a push towards Banner 18, Heather Walker sadly passed away following a courageous battle with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer she had been fighting since being diagnosed in July 2021. She was only 52.
In the ensuing two years, Heather along with her family and friends tirelessly worked to raise funds and create awareness for the little known disease.
On March 13, 2022 Heather was honored as a Celtics “Hero Among Us” -the same day Kevin Garnett’s No. 5 was hoisted to the rafters- for her campaign that raised more than $600,000 to fund cancer vaccine research.
Shortly thereafter, she helped lead a 2-mile walk down Preston Beach in her native Marblehead where more than 150 people gathered in a show of support for those battling cancer, as well as all the teachers, students and health care workers in town who persevered through the challenges of the COVID-19 chaos.
“It absolutely means so much to me,” Heather said of the walk. “So many negative things have happened over the past couple of years. I thought this is one positive thing that could bring people together.”
Bringing people together is one of the many extraordinary gifts Heather had the ability to do. She helped bring BostonMan Magazine, and many others, into the most storied franchise in the history of sports.
The Celtics remember Heather as “a soundlessly charismatic, giving, and selfless soul” and said her “energy, joy, and laughter” will be greatly missed.
I COULD still hear and feel that energy, joy, and laughter this spring in TD Garden while attending Celtics playoffs games. The same energy I felt the first time Heather called me in February 2020.
Looking up at the hallowed Rafters this spring and seeing all of the championship banners and Celtics legends honored above, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to one day see Heather Walker up there too, as the first woman in Celtics history honored with a Rafters ceremony.
Rest peacefully Heather, you are forever a Celtic.