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Helen Grace Gum Westlake

Obituary Condolences

Helen Grace Gum Westlake Obituary
Helen Grace Gum Westlake of Wheaton passed away on the morning of Sept. 9 surrounded by her husband, daughter, and son-in-law, after a brief hospitalization, at the age of 84. She was certainly a loving daughter, sister, aunt, and mother, but above all else, Helen Westlake was a teacher. It would take a lot of space to list the many awards and accomplishments she acquired over 50 years of teaching, but longer still would be the list of the thousands of students who learned that Home Economics was not only about cooking and sewing, but about life, love, and what a family is all about. Helen Grace Gum was born In 1927 to Cecil and Helen Gum, in the same farmhouse in which her mother and grandfather were born, near Elburn, IL. Helen graduated from Elburn Community High School in 1945, and received a degree in education from Northern Illinois University in 1949, and a master's degree from Iowa State. She married Donald G. Westlake in 1950, and started her Home Ec teaching career in small towns around Iowa and Illinois, before settling down to a long stint as chair of the Home Ec department at York High School in Elmhurst, IL, from 1972-1989. Under her leadership, Home Ec courses expanded to include Child Life and Literature and Psychology for Living. During that time, she wrote five nationally-acclaimed textbooks on family living and child development, three on her own and two with her husband. After leaving York HS, Helen Westlake taught family life courses at the College of DuPage, from 1990 until her retirement in 2007. Helen Westlake is survived by her husband, Donald G. Westlake; her daughter, Dawn Westlake of Los Angeles and son-in-law Bruce Rheins; her sisters, Carrie Petrie of Elburn, Cecilia Lund of Sycamore, and Elaine Johansen of Dekalb; and dozens of cousins, nieces, and nephews. Her greatest legacy is to the students she taught and the women's causes she championed; to that end, contributions may be made to the AAUW Helen Gum Westlake Research and Project Grant (AAUW Educational Opportunities Fund #4193, 1111 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC, 20036); to the Helen Gum Westlake and Donald G. Westlake Scholarship For Family Life Studies at Northern Illinois University, niufoundation.org or 877-448-2648; and to the League Of Women Voters of Wheaton, PO Box 1026, Wheaton, IL, 60187, wheatonlwvil.org . A memorial service is being planned for Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Naperville campus of Northern Illinois University, 1120 E. Diehl Rd. in Naperville, at 2 PM. Helen Westlake's motto was TOTS-- "Think Of The Students". All of the students, and all her many friends and loved ones, are thinking of her.
Published in Chicago Tribune from Sept. 12 to Sept. 16, 2012
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