It is very difficult to grieve Helen's passing. She was a very special teacher and I was fortunate to have a lifelong relationship with her. I don't know why but I always sent her a Christmas card, and she always sent me a birthday card. Since I moved back to Montreal, we have had opportunity to go to the museum together and to talk more frequently on the phone. What I learned in her class, a lifelong lesson, was that everyone is an artist - it only requires the support for self expression and tolerance for that expression. She allowed us to be who we are, while also teaching us what she appreciated about the great artists of the world and how to look at paintings, to "see". She opened the art room over lunch time for anyone who wanted to work, and this became a therapeutic space. She was reserved but thoughtful and involved. Years later she shared that she understood that many of the students in her classes were mostly a special cohort of children of survivors of the Holocaust: that was never acknowledged. But she understood that without saying a word about it till many years later.
I always wanted to capture her beautiful presence and talk about her life. To that end we had some conversations and she shared about the special work she had done when she taught English and her students writings were actually published. I recall her helping us to do the scenery for the Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado: in high school. She had also kept some of the paintings that her students had left behind.
After she retired she did some serious volunteer work while keeping up with her favourite arts and plays.
I will deeply miss her reassuring presence.
One more thing. When I lived in NYC she and her husband visited and stayed in the other apartment that I was renting to visitors at the time. We were riding on the bus on Fifth Ave, when she noticed that a man had taken a wallet out of a woman's bag. She said in a loud voice, in a crowded bus in NYC, where in those days, everyone more or less had their head done,- "that man has your wallet!" - And the wallet dropped to the floor. What courage!
I am wondering how to create a more permanent memorial for her that we can all share and remember her with.
While I was in Outremont High, she helped us put on the Mikado, one year. And I know she had kept some of the artwork of her students.
Anyway, I will write something on the website as well but I wanted to share these thoughts with you in particular since I know you had a very special relationship with Helen as well.
I had talked to her before I left to see you, and was planning to see her when I returned.