Helen passed away. Is 2 correct because although Helen passed away, it refers to the relationship which is a fact?
I think both can be used depending on the context and the situation. If the speaker and the addressee know that Helen died, I think the natural answer will be (1). However, (2) could work in some situations, too. For example, see this dialogue:
Thank you both for your responses. The situation is that the speaker and the addressee both know that Helen passed away. I was comparing to the case: Richard is an ex-colleague. Maybe it is different because the word “ex-colleague” itself bears the meaning which reflects the relationship in the past. But we still use present tense.
David: Richard was a teacher of King’s College.
David: Richard is an ex-colleague of mine.
Both David and Richard are live and kicking. Richard is no longer teaching at King’s College.
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