By Katie Malich
Ten years ago, longtime UUSM member Helen Brown celebrated her December 10 birthday by taking a flying lesson.
Lots of people take flying lessons. But I don’t know anyone else who did it on their 90th birthday.
Helen’s flight was significant in more ways than one. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 80 years ago, Helen was just hours away from having enough flying time to qualify for her pilot’s license. The attack put an end to civilian aviation and Helen’s dreams of flight. But she did her part to support the war effort. And after the war ended she lived on a military base in Germany with her GI husband, Grant, working on postwar German reconstruction.
Helen and Grant moved back to California upon return to civilian life. Their daughter had special needs. Helen was her staunch supporter and advocate throughout school, scouts, and adulthood. In fact, Helen went back to school and became a speech pathologist to help other children like her beloved daughter.
Helen’s caretaking skills were called upon again when her husband was diagnosed with Parkinsons. Helen was active in local Parkinson support groups and our church’s caretaker support group, providing valuable advice and assistance to one and all.
Prior to COVID, Helen participated in a number of other church groups and activities, including Dining for Dollars, the Women’s Alliance Sewing group, the Green Committee, the Super Seniors Group, and Bruno Lacombe’s weekly exercise classes. She prefers mystery novels and public television to the internet, but thanks to church member Greg Wood she’s been able to listen to our weekly online services during the closure of our physical building.
Helen was an avid-cruise goer, classical music fan, and a proud alumma of Hollywood High School. She loved gardening and was an early convert to xeriscaping, replacing her front yard with a drought tolerant garden of California native plants which she designed herself. I was so excited about her front yard that I’d inadvertently embarrass Helen whenever telling others about how fantastic it was. (Spoiler: It is. It really is.)
Knowing Helen’s reticence and desire to keep a low profile, I called Helen to tell her I’d been asked to write a little something for the newsletter for her 100th birthday. I asked her if she’d ever forgive me for writing this. It could have been the phone connection, but I’m not sure I ever got an audible response. Knowing Helen, she’d probably rather not have a fuss made over her. I’m sorry Helen. You mean so much to so many of us we want to acknowledge your special day.
There will be a little in-person, socially distanced fuss, too. I’m pretty sure the members of her longtime knitting group will celebrate her 100th at their weekly COVID-safe outdoor gathering in Cloverfield Park.
If you want to wish Helen a happy birthday, her home address is in the directory. Yes, at 100 years old, she’s still in her own home with her beloved cat, Butterscotch. Happy birthday, Helen.