ORONO – Helen Young, born Aug. 25, 1917, died Jan. 6, 2014, in Orono. She was the daughter of Gertrude and Harry London of Dorchester, Mass.
Helen sadly lost her parents to the influenza pandemic at the age of one in 1918. She had one sister, Ruth, who predeceased her. For the last five years of her life Helen was able to remain in her home in Orono due to the loving 24 hour a day care of Freda DiNapoli and several other caring women, Margie, Patsy, and Charlene who came to provide Freda her days off. Helen enjoyed the help and many visits from Freda’s extended family and especially found joy when they brought Freda’s young granddaughter, Cora, and Beau, a lively Cocker Spaniel, for the special visits that brought her many smiles.
Helen lived with her grandfather and then later with her Aunt Goldie Braverman who she always called her “Mumma” in Somerville, Mass. She graduated from Somerville High School where she did college prep work as well as secretarial studies. She began her career as a secretary in a candy factory where she delighted in being able to provide friends and family with large boxes of “seconds.” Helen’s life long devotion to finding bargains had just begun. She then worked for a construction company setting up various offices for them in different states.
Helen met her husband, Harold during World War II when a friend gave her name to a lonely soldier to set up a letter exchange. Helen was a wonderful writer and completely charmed Harold in her letters. They met several times when Harold was on leave. Harold later recalled falling in love with Helen the first time he heard her rich voice marked by a slight Boston accent. They married on Feb. 20, 1943, and Helen settled in Florida to help Harold’s stepfather in his chiropody practice while Harold was in Europe fighting with the 101 Airborn as a paratrooper engineer. After being nearly fatally shot in the arm and chest shortly after he landed on D-Day, Harold returned home from the war to recuperate. Harold felt that he avoided death from his injury only because of his intense desire to return home to his wife. When Harold had sufficiently healed, they moved to Durham, N.C., where Harold completed doctoral studies at the Duke University School of Forestry. Their first two children, Marjorie, and Susan, were born in North Carolina. Emily and Michael were born after Harold accepted a job offer from the University of Maine and the family had moved to Orono in 1948.
Helen and Harold soon moved with the family to their lifelong home on Forest Avenue. When Sue was about six, Helen agreed with two friends to run a Brownie troop. She lead this small group of girls for three years. Each week there was a special project and the Brownies were delighted to work on the creative projects Helen devised.
The family lived in Norway in 1963 when Harold received a Fulbright fellowship. On a Norwegian ski holiday, despite never having skied before in her life, Helen skied straight down the big hill at the ski resort on her first try under the cover of darkness. During that year Helen became an expert at knitting Norwegian sweaters. She continued knitting for many years after her return to Maine. She made about four dozen Norwegian and other style sweaters, as well as many hats, gloves, and mittens and ordered Norwegian yarn for friends in addition to helping many people who had knitting difficulties.
Helen began working at the University of Maine part time in the Forestry department when the children were young. In 1970 she resumed full time work as the administrative assistant at the Faculty Senate, where she also provided extra assistance to the elected president of that group. Each year she worked for a different president of the Senate. Some of the Senate presidents later told the family that it seemed more that they were working for Helen! Helen quickly became the institutional memory of the Faculty Senate. She truly loved her job and she especially liked that she was helping the University. She continued to work for the Faculty Senate until she was 81 years old. Each day she worked, she enjoyed a noon swim at the University pool where she had a number of friends.
Helen was known for her wit, her hard work at home raising her family, her pursuit of bargains all over the world, and for her contributions to the University of Maine. In recognition of those contributions, Helen was honored with a Legislative resolution at the State House in Augusta in August of 2000.
Helen was predeceased by her husband, Harold, in 1998. Helen leaves behind her children and their spouses, Marjorie Parcak and John Parcak of Bangor, Susan Young of Bangor, Emily Young and Stephen Branz of Palo Alto, Calif., and Michael Young and Lari Young of Winston Salem, N.C. In addition she leaves eight grandchildren, Sarah Parcak, Aaron Parcak, Heidi Branz, Toby Branz, Naomi Branz, Jessie Young, Lilly Young, and Kaelan Young. Her two nieces, Gail and Shirley, daughters of her sister Ruth, also survive her. She also leaves behind a special friend, Judy Olson, who visited her every week in her final years. Helen’s family wishes to extend appreciation and gratitude to the nursing and support staff of New Hope Hospice for their immeasurable care in the last months of Helen’s life. At Helen’s wish, there will be no services. The immediate family will gather at a later date for a private celebration of her life.