Sallie Griffis Helms, Ph.D., departed this world in peace on March 15, 2013. The cause of her death was pancreatic cancer. During her 61 years on this earth, Sallie was privileged to share her life with her beloved husband of 35 years, William Charles Helms, and cherished sons, William Travis Helms of New Haven, Connecticut and Chase McKnight Helms of Atlanta, Georgia. Her "three angels" were the lights of her life. Sallie's husband, Bill, tended to her with such great and loving care during her illness. Never was a wife showered with such unselfish love. Her sons Travis and Mac brought Sallie immeasurable pride and joy and a great sense of gratitude. Sallie was delighted by the way Travis and Mac engage themselves with the people and world around them. She also loved her dog, Kakkie, a loyal companion and ministering spirit throughout her years of treatment.|
Additionally, she is survived by her brother, Donald Warner Griffis of San Angelo, Texas; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law Priscilla Chase Griffis of San Angelo, Sally Baggett Griffis of Peachtree City, Georgia, Becky Helms Kirksey and Kenneth Charles Kirksey of North Richland Hills, Texas, Barbara Helms Alfred and James Don Alfred of Austin, Texas; and numerous nieces and nephews, who brought her great joy; as well as her surrogate mother, mentor and friend, Virginia Berg Chase of San Angelo. She was preceded in death by her parents, William Alexander Griffis, Jr. and Dorothy Warner Griffis of San Angelo; her brother Captain William Alexander Griffis, III of San Angelo; her surrogate father, Ralph Raymond Chase of San Angelo; and her parents-in-law, Ora Hampe Helms and Calvert Garland Helms of Clifton, Texas.
Sallie was born on January 11, 1952 in San Angelo, TX. She was the youngest child, and adored her two older brothers. She graduated from San Angelo Central High School in 1970. She was a popular student who received many awards, including National Honor Society, Track Queen, Homecoming Court, and Senior Class Friendliest. She was also an inspired Bobcat cheerleader. She enjoyed vacations with her family, especially to Colorado and Mexico; cruising with her friends in the pink Rambler her father bought her; and summer camp in Brush Ranch, New Mexico.
Sallie attended Agnes Scott College ( 1972), later serving as alumnae class representative, and The University of Texas at Austin (1974), where she graduated Cum Laude, and was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. Upon graduation, Sallie moved to Washington, D.C., where she first worked for Congressman O.C. Fisher, and then Senator John Tower. She received her Master's degree in Family Therapy from the University of Houston - Clear Lake (1994), where she was awarded the President's Cabinet Leadership Award as an alumna (1996).
Sallie married Bill Helms of Clifton, TX in 1978, five and one-half years after they met on a blind date for the opening game of the University of Texas Longhorn's football team. Bill fell in love with her that September evening, but it took time, perseverance, and the idyllic setting of Cuernavaca, Mexico, to win her heart. She is, truly, the love of his life. Sallie and Bill were perfect partners for one another, first moving from Houston to New York City, where she worked for former Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon. They returned to Houston, but also lived in Austin, Atlanta and San Francisco. At each location, they made life-long friends, creating inviting, comfortable homes that always welcomed others, especially the friends of their two sons: Travis, born in 1983, and Mac, born in 1985. Nothing in life gave Sallie more joy than her two sons, and being their mother.
When Travis and Mac were in elementary school, Sallie continued the pursuit of her passion for marriage and family therapy. She was honored to be a member of the faculty of the Houston Galveston Institute in Houston, Texas. She was a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and particularly enjoyed helping couples prepare for marriage by meeting with them in pre-marital counseling. Sallie earned her Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Sam Houston State University (2011). Dr. Helms was particularly proud of this accomplishment. Her singular and innovative dissertation is currently being edited for publication as a book. Integrating post-modern theory and collaborative research methodology, Dr. Helms' project was grounded in a commitment to privileging the voices of the English Language Learners and Paraprofessionals in Aldine School District with whom she worked. Her work's unique combination of intellectual rigor, creativity and compassion led to its being granted the 2012 AERA Qualitative Research SIG Outstanding Dissertation Award. The extraordinary Project Ella Community Quilt is on permanent display in the Keeble EC / PK Head Start Center, Aldine ISD [203 West Gulfbank Road, Houston, TX 77037-2322].
During her illness and treatments, Sallie was blessed beyond words by the love of family and friends, who she called her "fireflies". Our family wants to express our deepest love and appreciation to all of you dear ones who brought such joy, friendship, and hope to Sallie's life.
A faithful member of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Sallie wanted to express her gratitude to the Palmer community, particularly members of the clergy and of the Order of St. Luke, for their continuous love and support during her years of cancer treatment. She felt special appreciation, as does her family, for Dr. Robert Wolff and the wonderful care he gave her at MD Anderson Cancer Center, as well as Connie Jacobs, Kelli Nugent; and Tai Tennessee, Regina Allen, and Loven Panes of M.D. Anderson for their tireless work and advocacy in Sallie's behalf.
For her courage, integrity of spirit, and inspiring strength, Sallie was granted the Evolving Eve Award by Houston Women's Magazine at the sixth annual HER Awards celebration (2012). A culmination of an entire life dedicated to the pursuit of serving and empowering others, the accolade was given in testimony to the both powerful commitment and resilience Prof. Helms demonstrated in finishing her dissertation in a brief season of remission, - and to the deeper witness her faith and altruistic character have been for countless others.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, 6221 Main Street, Houston, TX 77030; Houston Galveston Institute, 3316 Mt. Vernon Street, Houston, TX 77006; Dr. Robert Wolff's Pancreatic Cancer Research, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center P.O. Box 4486 Houston, TX 77210-4486 / www.mdanderson.org/gifts [contributors are requested to specify Sallie's name]; or to Sam Houston State University's Sallie Griffis Helms Counselor Education Scholarship, Sam Houston State University, University Advancement Office, c/o Kelsey Christian, P.O. Box 2537, Huntsville, TX 77341-2537.
A celebration of Sallie's life will be held on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, 6221 Main Street, Houston, Texas 77030, the Rev'd James P. Nutter officiating, followed by a reception in the church courtyard held by family. Her ashes will be interred in the columbarium of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, San Angelo, Texas, where she and Bill were married. Arrangements are being made by Bradshaw-Carter Memorial and Funeral Services.
Published in Houston Chronicle from Mar. 16 to Mar. 17, 2013