Mary Helen Buie-Helms died Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. Helen was admired and loved for her quiet demeanor and sweet disposition. Always shy, and therefore never boring or annoyingly aggressive, she met life's challenges and accomplished her goals without fanfare. She had learned early in life it wouldn't be easy.
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Helen's father met with a tragic death when she was only 16 months old and her little brother was a new born. She bonded early in life with her baby brother, Dee, Jr., but death angels took him away from her too when he was only four. These early events in her life could have left her fragmented, afraid to love anyone or anything again. They did cause her to withdraw from society somewhat, but at the same time, these hardships instilled in her a desperate need to love and be loved, and she responded to the call. She had a particular yearning for small children as well as homeless animals.
When her mother remarried and presented her with a baby sister, Helen rallied, quickly appointing herself as her little sister's protector. In spite of her shyness and small stature, she dared threaten anyone whom she thought posed a threat to her sister, once belting a seven year old boy in the nose after he accidentally ran into her sister on a school playground. She later admitted to her sister that she was so frightened herself during this "ruckus," she was dizzy with fear and nearly fell to the ground in a dead faint. Still, she repeated similar actions that warmed everyone not to mess with her sister, or anyone else she loved.
Helen married Samuel Wallace Smith in 1941 and the newlyweds moved from Hamburg to Pine Bluff, Ark., where their daughter, Mary Sam, was born a year later. Unfortunately, Helen suffered severe medical problems during child birth that left her barren. She threw herself into motherhood, caressing her little girl, dressing her in ribbons and ruffles while also seeing to the child's emotional and spiritual needs. It was during this time Helen sang in the church choir and when the choir director singled her out for a solo via radio (the media of the forties) Helen was mortified by the idea, certain the director spoke in jest. It rarely occurred to Helen that she was talented, when in fact; she was multi-talented with a great deal to offer society. She did sing on the radio and eventually became a frequent soloist on the program until the family relocated. As was her nature, she never let anyone in her new surroundings know she had a beautiful voice.
When her daughter left for college, Helen didn't like the empty nest she found herself occupying. At the age of forty, she and her husband adopted two children, a girl (Kelly Dee) and a boy (Scott Aubrey). It meant Helen was destined to survive the rearing of teenagers when she was in her fifties and sixties! All of this and twenty to thirty cats? No stray was sent away from Helen's house. The family lived in Biloxi, Miss., during this time and it was often said that Helen had more cats than the Biloxi pound did!
In spite of her responsibilities as housewife and mother, Helen managed to stay busy outside the home. She was active in Biloxi's United Methodist Church where she served as one of the church's first female ushers. It was a challenge for a painfully shy lady, but she handled it with her usual poise, denying the public any hint of the terror that ripped at her emotional seams each time she walked the church aisles. A lover of beautiful flowers led Helen to join Biloxi's Garden Club where she was often a board member and once served as the group's president. A highlight in Helen's life came when the Biloxi chapter of the Elks' Club (BPOE) chose her as its Queen and she ruled over their activities with her usual grace and charm during her very busy and exciting rein.
Helen's marriage ended in divorce, but in 1988 she met Joel "Jack" Helms of Niceville. The two traveled together to Europe, Australia, and Hawaii, as well as the 48 continental United States. At home, they enjoyed the companionship of their eight (combined) children. Helen's children include: Mary Sam Stewart (David); Kelly Dee Gilbert (Russell); and Scott Aubrey McKoin residents of Mississippi. Helen's step- children are: Joel E. Helms; Jackie Shaw (Greg); Judy Horner (Horace); Jennifer Mathis, and Janie Patrick (Jim).
All of Helen's loving and caring was returned to her when she married Jack. When she became disabled by Alzheimer's, Jack became full time housekeeper and caregiver and he accepted the challenge with the same grace Helen had always accepted hers. Jack cared for her
until her disease robbed her of all memory and he could no longer take care of her at home. While she was a resident at Superior Residence in Niceville, he fed her twice a day and took her on outings as long as she was physically able to go.
In addition to her father, Clarence Dee Buie, and brother, Clarence Dee, Jr., Helen was predeceased by her mother, Hattie Ethel Brown, and her step-father, Aubrey Brown, of Prescott, Ark. In addition to her three children and five step children, she is survived by her husband, Jack Helms, and one sister, Audrey Edwards, both of Niceville. Also surviving her are two granddaughters, Connie Stacy (Brian) and Casey Hanna (Ward); one grandson, Chris Clemmons (Juana); and two great-grandchildren, Hattie Elise Hanna and Ward David Hanna.
For those wishing to express condolences, the family welcomes flowers as they were Helen's passion. However, any expression of sympathy will be appreciated.
There will be a memorial service held on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, at 10 a.m., with a visitation held one hour prior to the service at Heritage Gardens Funeral Home, with the Rev. Mike McGough officiating.
You may go online to offer condolences to the family and sign the guestbook at www.heritagegardensfuneralhome.com. Heritage Gardens Funeral Home of Niceville is entrusted with the arrangements.
Heritage Gardens Funeral Home & Cemetery
2201 N Partin Dr
Niceville, FL 32578
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Nov. 5 to Nov. 6, 2013