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Helen Ziehm Quimby

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Helen Ziehm Quimby Obituary
Helen Ziehm Quimby

Lucid to the end at 96 years old, Helen Ziehm Quimby died unexpectedly on Sept. 2, 2013. Born on May 10, 1917, in Clinton, Iowa, to John and Margueritte Wagner Ziehm, she spent much of her early childhood in Pine Bluff, Ark., where the family had moved.

After undergraduate studies at Whitworth College in Mississippi and Centenary College in Louisiana, she was awarded a fellowship at Louisiana State University's Department of Art, where she earned a Master of Arts degree as a sculptor. While a student in Baton Rouge, she met George Irving Quimby, who supervised the LSU Works Progress Administration Archaeological Survey. They married in 1940.

Helen won recognition through exhibitions of her work in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New York and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her limestone sculpture of a man and woman, titled The Bond, was selected and purchased for the permanent collection of the IBM Corporation. It appeared among the featured art in a book titled Sculpture of the Western Hemisphere, published in 1942. The couple bought a sofa and washing machine with the proceeds.

With marriage her interests shifted to family. In 1942 their daughter Sedna was born in Michigan. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Chicago, where George became curator of North American archaeology and ethnology at the Field Museum of Natural History. In 1944 Helen was the illustrator for his publication titled Aleutian Islanders, Eskimos of the North Pacific. They had three sons, Edward in 1946, John in 1950 and Robert in 1952. Helen raised their children in Chicago until 1965, when the family moved to Seattle, where George became Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.

While predominately focused on family, Helen remained an artist to the core for her entire life. Primarily a sculptor in wood, clay and stone, she also excelled in oil painting, watercolor, Conte crayon, charcoal or pencil sketches and sumie, the Japanese-style ink painting. Friends and family members cherish her art work, such as Conte crayon drawings of Louisiana cypress swamps, watercolors of Skagit Valley tulips and clay sculptures of the human figure.

Forever active and curious, Helen bicycled in Chicago and Seattle into her seventies. She also learned to drive in Seattle, bought a car and always had watercolors and paper onboard for years, later switching to a sketch pad. As her children grew, she had more time for art and other interests, such as her perennial love of nature.

Becoming an avid birder, Helen often reached for her binoculars instead of the sketch pad. The dog-eared pages of her birding field guide are full of notes on what she saw and when and where. Numerous road trips and tours, solo or with friends or family members, took her cross-country to birding hotspots on the Plains and the East Coast, up the inland passage to Alaska and down on the Galapagos Islands, to mention a handful from decades of continental and transoceanic travels.

Helen was preceded in death by her husband George in 2003, professor emeritus and director emeritus at the university, and her brother, Tennessee dentist Harold W. Ziehm in 2006, who had given her fine birding binoculars. She lives on in daughter Sedna Helen Quimby Wineland, with husband David, Boulder, Colo; sons G. Edward, John E. with wife Linda, and Robert W. Quimby, Seattle; grandchildren Charles Wineland with wife Siana, Port Townsend, Wash., Michael Wineland, Boulder, Jordan, Rachel and Jonathan Quimby, Seattle; and great grandchildren, Raine and Autumn Wineland, Port Townsend.

Throughout every stage of her life, Helen was an elemental and irresistibly powerful force. All who knew and loved her treasure the shared times. They miss her warmth, beauty, inquiring mind, quick wit, artistic vision and deep appreciation of nature. Those wishing to remember her may contribute to the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy or the Dr. George I. and Helen Z. Quimby Scholarship at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where George donated his library, not far from his birthplace.
Published in The Seattle Times on Sept. 22, 2013
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