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Helen Halstead

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Helen Blakeslee Halstead 1907 - 2011 PERU Helen Blakeslee Honsinger Halstead, 103, died peacefully in her sleep at Equinox Terrace on July 29, 2011. A resident of Peru, Helen was born on Dec. 1, 1907, in Syracuse, N.Y., the daughter of Evalina Vernon Honsinger and Dr. Frederick Sherwood Honsinger. She graduated from Syracuse University in 1928 and, in the 1950's, returned to college and received a MSW from the New School in New York City. Immediately after her marriage to Gordon Brinkerhoff Halstead on June 9, 1928, the couple departed for India where they worked under the auspices of the Methodist Church at Lucknow Christian College in Lucknow, India. On their way to India, Gordon was in charge of a Christian Youth Conference in Holland where for the first time they met people who were talking about independence for India. This had a profound effect on the young couple and they soon started wearing Indian clothing and became caught up in the Quit India nationalist movement, resulting in their ouster from the country by the British in 1932. The Halsteads, who had three children, moved a great deal upon their return to the United States at the height of the depression. It was Helen who made every move seem like a new adventure and gave her children a lifelong love of travel. While the children were still at home, Helen was a stay-at-home Mom, active in PTA, civil rights and social action at the various churches to which they belonged. She also took in foster children as well as friends and relatives, many of whom spent many years in the Halstead household. Once her children were older, Helen worked for the Westchester County (NY) Department of Social Services in foster care placement. Helen was a wonderful hostess and cook and it can truly be said of her that she never met a stranger. Many lifelong friends were people Helen met in chance meetings and immediately invited for dinner. When Pat and Fred Carmichael were first bringing the Caravan Theatre to Dorset in the late 1940's, they found themselves without a place or house to live at the last minute. Helen invited them to live for the summer at her home in Peru along with the entire company and guest performers. Five days a week for that entire first season, Helen cooked dinner on a wood stove in a house without electricity, for the entire company and brought a hot meal to Dorset down Route 11 which was under construction at the time. Helen and Gordon purchased their home in Peru in 1938 and moved full time to Vermont in 1965. During the 1980's, they began India Travel Seminars, tours of India that gave travelers an in-depth experience of modern India. While Gordon was the organizer, it was Helen who kept people healthy and well and made sure the experience was a positive one for all tour participants. Helen and Gordon were invited to India as guests of the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1986. Helen managed to make the trip truly memorable by breaking her hip while they were his guests. Helen was predeceased by her husband, Gordon, to whom she had a remarkable 76-year marriage. She also outlived all her siblings: Frances "Toots" Kimball, R. Adm. L.V. "Mike" Honsinger (USN Retired), Fredericka "Freddy" Hynes and Abram "Jack" Honsinger. She is survived by her children and their spouses, Dr. Scott and Edna Halstead of North Bethesda, Md., Dr. Lauro and Jessica Halstead of Washington, D.C. and Welthy and Paul Myers of Peru, Vt.; eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, as well as dozens of cousins, nephews, nieces and friends. FUNERAL NOTICE: A celebration of Helen's long and adventurous life will take place on Sunday, Oct. 9, at the Peru Congregational Church at 2 p.m. Memorial gifts may be made to Planned Parenthood, 6 Roberts North, Rutland, VT 05701 or a charity of your choice. BREWSTER FUNERAL SERVICE in Manchester has been entrusted with the care of Mrs. Halstead's funeral arrangements. To send personal email condolences to the family please visit www.sheafuneralhomes.com.

Published in Bennington Banner on July 30, 2011
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