TF South dedicates spirit tree to Erica Heilmann

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(Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Former theater instructor’s legacy lives on

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (December 7, 2018) – Several dozen people gathered near the main entrance to TF South High School Thursday evening to honor the memory of Erica Heilmann, who taught there for 20 years. Heilmann died on September 30, 2018, after an eight-year battle with cancer.

TF South Principal Jake Gourley said a few words to the assembled crowd about Erica Heilmann and her impact on children’s lives. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Heilmann’s family was in attendance for the ceremony. Erica and husband Dave had four children: Natalie, 16, Joey, 13, Mikey, 11, and Brooke, 7. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Heilmann was a theater instructor at TF South, and as her obituary said, “She changed countless lives through theatre, teaching children, teens and adults, instilling in them the beauty of theatre and all it adds to a life. …In 2017 she received recognition by The Tony Awards as one of the top 20 theatre teachers in the country who have demonstrated a monumental impact on the lives of students while embodying the highest standards of the profession.”

In a fitting tribute, TF South chose Opening Night of the musical, Legally Blonde, for a brief ceremony. They had planted a spirit tree outside the auditorium and decorated it with pink lights and bows. The tree will remain lit for the holiday season.

The Heilmann family posed for pictures in front of the spirit tree, which is appropriately located outside the auditorium. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The spirit tree will remain lit throughout the holiday season. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

TF South High School is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois.