This article was published soon after Helen passed away in the Hartford Courant:
Helen Perez Belongs In Tennis Hall Of Fame - tribunedigital-thecourant
Helen Perez Belongs In Tennis Hall Of Fame
January 17, 2006|By OWEN CANFIELD
The story of Helen Pastall Perez, sent to me by her husband, Bobby Perez of Goshen, was a tribute to and a recollection of her tennis accomplishments. But it was more than that.
Helen and Bobby had 57 married years together. They were a strong team on the tennis court and off. And so, not surprisingly, her story as told by her husband, was something of a love letter, too.
This is my favorite paragraph: ``Helen was about 5-feet, 7-inches and weighed somewhere between 135 and 140 pounds [forgive me honey] in her prime. She ran like a deer and fought like a gored bull. I might add that she had lovely dark hair and was beautiful!'' The last line of the account is ``God Bless you, Helen.'' Both his pain and his pride in his late partner come alive in those lines.
``She battled cancer for 20 years,'' Perez said by phone. Helen was 76 when she died at their home in December.
Perez, 81, with the help of daughters Paula Kelly and Annie Beals and son Rob, is carrying on as he knows he must and all of us must when a beloved spouse is taken. But Perez harbors a special hope about his departed wife, who won a number of national tournaments and was popular, widely known and highly ranked. Perez has carried this hope for a long time:
``She should be in the [Tennis] Hall of Fame,'' he said. ``Just look at the record.'' And he provided the record. Part of it anyway.
The record, according to Perez's report, shows that for nine years, from 1946 to 1955, she was consistently ranked among the top 10 players in the USA, rising as high as No. 4 in 1948. If you remember most of these tennis toughies from days gone by you'll remember most of the following.
Quoting Bobby Perez: ``[Helen] often prevailed against tough opponents, including Nancy Chaffee Kiner [6 wins]; Darlene Hard ; Angela Buxton ; Pat Canning Todd ; Magda Rurac ; Shirley Fry ; Doris Hart ; Gussie Moran ; Dorothy Bundy Cheney ; Beverly Fleitz ; Louise Brough ; Maureen Connolly [3 out of l6] and Althea Gibson .
They were some of the great female players of the day. Gibson was the first black player to win a grand slam event. Maureen Connolly was a great champion, known as ``Little Mo'' who lost her own battle with cancer decades ago; and Gussie Moran was known as ``Gorgeous Gussie'' because, in part, of her flamboyant dress on the court.
According to Perez, Gibson wrote in her first autobiography that she never felt she was a world champion because she lost twice to Helen [at Orange and in the 1954 U.S. Nationals.] He also provided tributes about Helen from Connolly and Billy Jean King.
Helen Perez played competitive age-group tennis and was a champion, until the year 2000, when she fractured a hip. Later she had two hip replacements. And then on a trip to Tuscany that year, Helen began to limp. The cancer, which had been in remission, had returned. It was a difficult road from there, but she was courageous to the end.
She left terrific memories of competitive tennis and social times, experienced on the West coast and elsewhere. Perez named names of acquaintances like Mary Tyler Moore, Johnny Carson, Ann Jefferies and Jim Murray, the Los Angeles Times Hall of Fame columnist, who wrote glowingly of Helen.
Perez, himself a tennis player of note, had one grand life with his Helen, to hear him tell it, and by the way, it's great entertainment to hear him tell it. I hope the Tennis Hall of Fame committee takes a look at the record and selects Helen Perez next time they meet.