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Portrait of a Hero - Helene

Sometimes we have hero's living right in our own neighborhood. Living down the street from me is such a hero! Helene has been a part of our family's life for such a long time. She taught my kids German and every Christmas Eve for several years, she came and told us stories about what it was like growing up in Germany and being so poor and hungry, they would eat sawdust just to keep the hunger pains away.

Both of Helene's parents were Americans, but they were so absorbed in their work as scientists, that when she was born, Helene was sent to Germany to be raised by her Grandmother. 

Photo: cousin, Helene, Grandmother

When she was 11 years old (1938), due to the impending war in Europe (WWII), Helene's parents brought her back to the United States and put her in a Catholic Convent. Here she was raised by the Nuns and received an excellent education. She's made the comment several times, that this was a happy and healthy time for her. (When she arrived in the USA, she was suffering from malnutrition.)

Photo: Mother, Father, Helen when they brought her to USA

After leaving the Convent, she pursued her education and joined the Army as a Bio Chemist.  At one point she was allowed to do research at John Hopkins University School of Medicine.  The nations #1 Medical School.  She also married a Navy man and had 2 children.

While she and her husband were stationed at Panama Canal (they didn't have children yet), she was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by their neighbors. She was baptized while still in Panama, her husband joined the church after they returned to the United States.

As long as I've known Helene, she has been a vounteer for the American Red Cross. During this time she developed Rheumatoid Arthritis. When she could no longer travel, she did her volunteer work from home. A few years ago, she receive the prestigious Clara Barton Award for distinguished service. 

According to Wikipedia, this is what's required to receive the Clara Barton Award:

The Clara Barton Honor Award is the highest award the American Red Cross bestows on volunteers. It recognizes meritorious service in volunteer leadership positions held over a period of years. Recipients of the award are inducted into the Clara Barton Honor Society.
The award demands leadership positions in each of the Red Cross's main departments:

 Health and Safety Services
 Armed Forces Emergency Services
 Disaster Services
 Biomedical Services
 Youth Services
 Nursing
 Volunteer Services
 International Services

Poetry also plays an important part in Helene's life. She has published 3 books of poetry and received several awards for her work. I have her first volume and can testify that she has a depth of feeling and vision that is beautiful and heartfelt.
Through her poetry you come to feel her joys and heartaches, her trials and blessings.

Even though, Helene's parents never had time to take care of her while she was growing up, she brought them into her home when they were elderly and cared for them.



  1. She sounds like a truly remarkable woman!

  2. Oh my goodness. What a fabulous woman. You are so blessed to live by her.

  3. Helene has led a remarkable life. She sounds very giving and shares her experiences with others. It's such a blessing to have wonderful neighbors and friends to share your family with!

  4. What a treasure living on your street! I've often thought so many elderly people have amazing stories to tell and inspiration to offer, yet sadly they are regularly overlooked. Thank you for sharing Helen's courageous story with us!

  5. This post helps prove how many amazing people we have the privilege to know, but without getting to truly know them, you will never know how much greatness surrounds you. Thanks Becky!

  6. Thank you for sharing these heroes with us. I love to chat with older people too. They have great stories to tell!

  7. Thank you for all your sweet comments. Helene is amazing but getting very old a feeble. She will love reading your comments!

  8. she is amazing! i would not have bothered with the parents that couldn't be bothered with me, though. couldn't they even send her and grandma money for food? shame-shame!

  9. Wow. I am nearly in tears. From eating sawdust to going research at Johns Hopkins...And to take care of those who were "too involved" in their work and basically abandoned her...I've never seen a more precious example of servanthood. God Bless you Helene! And thank you Becky, for sharing her with us!

  10. She does sound wonderful and I bet she is such an inspiration to live by but then I bet she thinks you are too.

  11. What an inspiring woman. What a blessing to have her so close to you and your children.

  12. What an amazing story. This lady truly shows the love of God thru her selfless giving! Thanks, Ms. Becky Jane, for sharing with us!

  13. Wow, what a great story, thanks for sharing. It reminds me how important it is to slow down and sit with our elders and ask about their life. My parents and grandparents have incredible stories too and I only know bits and pieces.

  14. Dear Becky,

    I love hero stories about real people. They inspire me to be greater than what I am.

    Keep sharing them.

    Your Friend,



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