MONTEREY – Helen Gordon was born October 1, 1913, and died in Arlington, VA on May 21, 2013 of a cardiac arrest. She was born in Vilno, Poland to Boris and Maria Parnes. She lived in Monterey for more than 60 years after immigrating to the U.S. with her husband, serge Gordon, who predeceased her in 1981. She was a holocaust survivor who escaped the ghetto in Vilno with her husband, but the rest of the family was murdered by the Nazis. One of the few women admitted to Vilno University Law School, her education was cut short in 1937 when the Nazis invaded the university and attacked Jewish students. She and her family escaped three times because of wars: first, to Moscow via Sweden during World War I; then, during World War II she and her husband escaped the Vilno ghetto, hiding in the Polish countryside for the duration of the war. Their third escape was from Poland to a displaced persons camp in Berlin, Germany when the Communists closed the borders in Poland at the end of World War II.
Helen, her daughter and husband immigrated to the U.S. in 1950, moving to Monterey where she taught Russian and Polish for more than thirty years at the Defense Language Institute. She was a natural teacher who had a great fondness for her students, and they, in kind, appreciated her ability to make even grammar fun with her sense of humor. She was exceedingly generous, kind, and a good friend to many. Despite dire circumstances, she managed to maintain a positive outlook on life. One of her favorite mottos was "carpe Diem." She enjoyed travel, dancing, reading, and had an active social life.
She is survived by her daughter Mary G. Carroll (Michael Lynch), grandsons Matthew G. Carroll (Ruth Dergicz), Patrick G. Carroll (Andrea) and four great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in August in Monterey, date to be determined. Donations may be made to the animal shelter of your choice.
Published in The Monterey Herald on May 29, 2013