Annette Heller, 77, Entrepreneur, Activist

Feb. 17, 1937 - April 20, 2014
Annette Heller, 77, Feb. 17, 1937 - April 20, 2014

Annette Heller, who had careers as a jewelry maker, a focus group leader, and a snack food entrepreneur before settling full-time in Springs and turning her attention to art, died on Sunday at home on Longwoods Lane in Springs. She was 77 and had fought breast cancer for 20 years.

Born to Simon and Gladys Abraham on Feb. 17, 1937, she graduated from the City College of New York with a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in school psychology. She became a teacher and took pride in helping students reach their full potential, her family said.

Mrs. Heller met the person who was to be her husband when she was 14 years old and they were members of Young Judea. In later life, she was a member of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor and contributed to Jewish causes, including the United Jewish Appeal, Chai Lifeline, and Hadassah, of which she was a lifetime member. After she and Harry E. Heller were married, they settled in Port Washington.

As a young mother with two children, Mrs. Heller baked bread, including challah, which she sold at local fairs. She then studied silver and gold smithing and casting, forming her own company, Art to Wear, which sold her jewelry to several New York department stores. She also followed the path of her husband, a leader in market research, forming another company, Long Island Groups-in-Focus, and conducting focus groups for various industries.

She and her husband were business partners as well as life partners, forming Harry’s Premium Snacks, which made and sold products like Hampton Recipe Potato Chips and Harry’s Sourdough Pretzels, as well as 50 other snack foods. The couple sold the company to the Hain Food Group in 1996.

They had summered for years in Springs, and eventually made it their full-time home. Living here year round, Ms. Heller became an artist, experimenting in acrylics and enamel in painting large abstract fields with  subject matter focused on the Kabbalah and Biblical themes. Her works were shown across the South Fork, including at Ashawagh Hall and Guild Hall, where she was awarded Best Abstract in a members show in 2007. She was a member of the Artists Alliance of East Hampton.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. Heller fought for herself, became active in events such as the Three-Day Avon Walk, and served on the East End board of CancerCare. She also raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She was also a volunteer and member of organizations such as Guild Hall, the Bay Street Theatre, the East Hampton Ladies Village Improvement Society, and the Ramblers.

In addition to her husband and children, who are Dr. Lisa Heller of Philadelphia and David Heller of West Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., Ms. Heller is survived by a sister, Vivian Freed, and five grandchildren. A service was held yesterday at Temple Adas Israel, which was to be followed by burial in Riverside Cemetery in Saddle Brook, N.J.

The family has suggested donations in her memory to Temple Adas Israel, P.O. Box 1378, Sag Harbor, 11963, or CancerCare, 275 Seventh Avenue, New York 10001, or another charitable organization, such as East End Hospice or the Ellen Hermanson Foundation.