Carolyn Heller

January 9, 1937 — August 22, 2011

Carolyn Heller

Carolyn F. Heller Celebration

The family of Carolyn F. Heller invites all her friends to a memorial celebration of Carolyn's life. Please join us at the Tampa Theatre on Sunday, October 23. The program will begin promptly at 10:30 am. Please plan to arrive by 10:00.

We will have a recording booth at the theatre for Carolyn's friends and family to share their stories and memories.

Please let us know if you can join us. Follow this link to RSVP.

The Tampa Theatre is in downtown Tampa at 711 Franklin Street, Follow this link for directions to the Tampa Theatre and additional parking information.

The family requests that donations made in Carolyn's memory be directed to Hillsborough Arts Inc., a non-profit arts organization. 707 N. Franklin Street, 6th Floor, Tampa, FL, 33602.


Carolyn Frohsin Heller, 74, died on Monday, August 22, 2011, ending a life as the matriarch of her family, a leader of the Tampa arts community and the life of the party to a legion of devoted friends. She died suddenly and unexpectedly, but in her family's loving arms. She will be deeply missed.

Carolyn was an accomplished and respected artist - and was a piece of work herself. She led an unabashedly high-spirited life, bringing irreverent fun to everything she did. A native of Alabama, she lived in Florida 50 years, yet proudly brandished her southern accent and identity throughout her gregarious life. Carolyn was in her element as a storyteller before an appreciative audience, who loved her for her wicked and wonderful ways of seeing the world.

Carolyn was born in 1937 in Alexander City, Ala., to Ralph and Frances Koch Frohsin. Her family founded the local department store, Frohsin's, which operated for over 100 years. Her father, an innovative merchant, master of ceremonies and civic leader, doted on his "Doll Baby" and was her model for making a creative life. Carolyn graduated from Stratford Hall in Danville, Va., then became a fine-arts major at Sophie Newcomb College at Tulane University.

In 1958 she married Edward Heller and ultimately moved to Florida. After settling in Tampa in 1961, she continued her art studies at the University of South Florida and the Tampa Museum. Over the years she worked with well-known artists Ida Kohlmeyer, Elaine de Kooning, Syd Solomon, William Pachner and Carl Cowden III. Her works are held in private and public collections and have been featured in numerous galleries, art shows and exhibitions. She created mostly paintings and prints - and also made functional art, such as jewelry, furniture, and fabric. Her images were joyful, colorful and drawn from nature. She described her art as "whimsical" and occasionally would give her works playful titles. For example, her painting "Hot Flashes" is on display in Tampa General Hospital's Women's Center.

Carolyn was on the board of several arts organizations. But she is perhaps most widely known for her work as a member of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, the funding source for local cultural services. Public art was one of her passions throughout her life. She helped establish the county's Public Art Committee, which selected and purchased contemporary art with funds generated by construction projects. After divorcing, she gained new expertise in the fields of architectural graphics, signage and design.

She collected contemporary art, and her south Tampa townhouse was a live-in gallery where she hosted annual holiday art shows that served up generous portions of her hospitality and homemade gumbo. She enjoyed seeing people wear her artwork. In 1997, she designed the winning T-shirt for the jazz festival in her hometown. Her art and parties were featured over the years in local media.

Carolyn was an avid gardener and proudly grew numerous exotic and tropical species, such as bromeliads, orchids and staghorn ferns. For decades, she actively shared her gardening devotion with the Della Robbia Garden Circle, Tampa Bay Bromeliad Society and the Golf View Garden Club. She gave her time and creativity to many other organizations, notably St. Joseph's Hospital, where she served on the board of the Development Council. She also was a member of the Congregation Schaarai Zedek and its sisterhood.

Carolyn raised four children, all of whom graduated from Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa. She was president of the Ladies of Berkeley and the Berkeley Blazers. Friends of the family remember how much fun they had at Carolyn's house on McKay Avenue, which featured a party room with a geodesic dome.

She loved antics - from dressing up as the Weenie Queen at Gasparilla parties to organizing the Mother Truckers, a softball team of carpooling moms. Before her health declined, she was the designated kicker for family football games at Thanksgiving. Carolyn also was an advocate for human rights, particularly the work of the Tampa AIDS Network. In 1997, TAN invited her to create its annual signature piece of art for the Art for Life benefit.

She is survived by her children; Alan Heller (Pam), Emily Heller (Basil), Janet Heller (Cathy) and Fran Heller; five grandchildren; and two brothers, Ralph Frohsin (Allyn) and Henry Frohsin (Carolyn).

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