Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2001


Goodbye to Tammy

The Bible, in Ecclesiastes, says there is a time for everything; and early in February it was time to bid goodbye to Tammy Scontrino. She finally succumbed to the ravages of a relentless disease. Breast cancer had been a constant threat to Tammy for at least five years. In an eulogy, though, one of her many friends, Amy Gros, reminded us that Tammy would say that she had cancer, but cancer didn’t have her. She proved that true over and over again as long as she lived. Anyone who associated with this young woman in any way could confirm her continuing zest for life in spite of her circumstances. In Tammy’s presence one was never reminded that a war was being waged inside her body, that she stoically endured continuous exams, varying reports and treatments. She possessed and portrayed a fierce, determined nature to keep her family’s private and public life as normal as possible. Everyone who knew her knew this. From the very beginning of her long ordeal, according to those closest to her, she continued to be involved in activities, planning and organizing in her usual fashion. This went on until the end, with many holding her in awesome wonder. Tammy was friendly to everyone and had great relationships with close friends and neighbors. I, too, knew and played tennis with her, and being a cancer patient myself was aware of her plight. She was a younger Garyville native, but I knew her parents, the late Ernest and Elma Heltz, very well. They were friendly people, very much a big part of my childhood memories. My neighbors, the Oncales, saw Tammy grow up almost in their back yard, and Joyce Oncale was her godmother. Siblings Ernest, Jr., Chris and Pam live in Garyville, while Gina resides in Metairie. None of the above or others were surprised when Tammy married Joey, her high school sweetheart and love of her life. The LaPlace Scontrinos produced two children in their 23-year marriage; Nicole, a local beauty and now a college student, and Joey, a Jesuit student who is on its swim team. An apparent strong family unit, the Scontrinos were always a part of the activities of their offspring, with Tammy being a strong, nurturing mother with, literally, her last breath. To those who knew her best, Tammy Heltz Scontrino was a fine example of a modern woman, wife, mother and caring friend. All those accolades coming in after her demise were deeply believed by those whose lives she touched. And, according to Keith Gillies’ eulogy, Tammy did this not only with of her zest for life, but especially with the bravery and moral strength with which she faced her death. So very many of her friends were there bidding goodbye in a heartfelt way. They were always there for each other, sharing the bad times just as they had shared the good. What Eleanor Roosevelt said proves so true: “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” Tammy’s footprints will always signal courage.