TAUNTON — Patricia Slavin, a retired nurse, attended Mass every day in East Taunton and often delivered Communion to homebound parishioners.
George A. Heath, a visual-design instructor in New Bedford, had a passion for teaching and a penchant for making people laugh.
Slavin and Heath were remembered by friends, family, and colleagues Wednesday, a day after they were fatally stabbed by an assailant in Taunton in what appear to be random acts of violence.
Authorities said Slavin was attacked in her Myricks Street home as she ate dinner with her daughter, and Heath was killed as he tried to subdue the same attacker at a mall restaurant.
"He saw the waitress being stabbed, and without concern for his own safety, he intervened and he quite possibly saved her life and the lives of others, including his wife,'' Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III told reporters. "His heroism should not be forgotten.''
At Holy Family Parish in East Taunton, Slavin was a familiar face, said the Rev. Kevin A. Cook, the church's pastor. She also served as a Eucharistic minister.
Cook said Slavin, 80, was among a group of parishioners who sometimes prayed the rosary before the 8 a.m. Mass and then ate breakfast together after church.
"It really was a second home to her," Cook said. "She had a great love for her faith."
He said Slavin's active lifestyle belied the struggles she experienced from a medical condition. "She actually had a lot of physical pain, but she never drew any attention to it," Cook said.
At the hospital Tuesday night, Cook prayed the commendation for the dead with Slavin's relatives and visited with her daughter, Kathleen, who was seriously injured in the attack. As soon as Kathleen Slavin saw Cook, she spoke of her mother's love for the church, the priest said.
"The parish was just family to her," he said Kathleen Slavin told him.
Slavin was a fixture of her neighborhood and had numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, neighbor Erica Lyford said.
Heath, a 56-year-old father, had taught at the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School for four years, said Superintendent James O'Brien.
"He was a gentleman who had great passion for teaching, and he was influential in sparking ... the creativity and the love of learning for students," he said.
O'Brien said no one in the close-knit school community was surprised that Heath would intervene to protect a stranger.
"He was genuine," he said. "Not a man that ever really wanted the limelight. He was just a good, kind person who wanted to do right by kids."
Heath had a reputation for handing out Heath candy bars and peppermints to students, Akim Campbell, a junior, said after school Wednesday.
Campbell, a fashion design student from New Bedford, said he studied with Heath during his freshman year and they stayed in touch. He said he had planned to speak with Heath on Wednesday to ask him for some help on a project.
"I'm glad I met him," he said. "He inspired me to get better at what I do."
At The Standard-Times of New Bedford, where Heath worked as a graphic artist and editor before he became a teacher, co-workers remembered his artistic talent, but above all his humor.
Joanna McQuillan Weeks, assistant features editor, recalled a joke Heath played on a newsroom assistant.
"He called up and pretended to be an irate customer," Weeks said. "Kind of disguised his voice, and went on at some length. He had her fooled for several minutes. ... He just knew how to make people laugh."
Weeks said she last saw Heath a couple of weeks ago, when he stopped in the newsroom to meet some old friends for lunch. "He was really just very enthusiastic about how his career was going and his work with the kids," she said.
Maureen E. Boyle, director of the journalism program at Stonehill College in Easton and a Standard-Times reporter from 1984-1998, said Heath's good humor was infectious. "He was always smiling — always — even when he was angry," she said.
Boyle added that it was unusual to see the good-natured Heath become frustrated.
"People knew if he raised his voice even a little bit, that they definitely had ... pushed him too far," she said, "because he was always very accommodating in terms of extra work ... and whatever anyone needed done."
Heath's wife remembered him in Facebook postings as "sweet, caring, adorable, funny," and said she was thankful to the off-duty sheriff's deputy who shot the attacker. She wrote that her husband "loved his job, his students, his lifelong friends, and his family."
"I'm heartbroken beyond belief. . . . I love you with all my heart," she said, while expressing anger at 28-year-old Arthur DaRosa, who was fatally shot by off-duty Plymouth County Deputy Sheriff James Creed.
Her brother, who gave his name as Mike, said Heath saved Rosemary and others at the mall. "He's a hero," he said. "He's the one who tackled him. He prevented anyone else from getting hurt. He stopped it right there. That was George."
Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.