Helen (Wilken) O'Hagan
1931 - 2020
{ "" }
Share
Share Helen's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Helen Wilken O'Hagan Charleston - On June 13, 2020, Helen Wilken O'Hagan, loving sister, aunt and friend passed away with family by her side. Helen was born on February 7, 1931, in Charleston, South Carolina. She was the daughter of John J. O'Hagan and Helen Wilken O'Hagan. In her childhood, she got the nickname "Speedy" because she was always on the go and had something to accomplish, and accomplish she did! After high school, she attended the Dock Street Theater School and became their business manager for two years, learning the "in's" and "out's" of staging large events, which would become her life's work. But Charleston wasn't big enough for Helen. So, in 1955, she was off to New York City and quickly landed a job at Saks Fifth Avenue. Within three years she was made Director of Publicity and in 1975, she became their Vice President, Director of Public Relations and Special Events. She loved staging fashion shows and special charity events for Saks, particularly SFA/USA which highlighted the top American designers of that time Adolfo, Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, Carolina Herrera, Mary McFadden and Oscar de la Renta, who all became her lifelong friends. One of her great joys earlier in her career was going to Europe to photograph the upcoming collections from the major European designers, many of which she helped introduce into the US market. During these trips and her time at Sak's she became very close to many members of the extended Ferragamo family. In 1986, she received the Chairman's Award from Sak's chairman, Mel Jacobs, who said, "She's the conscience of the company. She's the source of our roots. She's played a crucial role in shaping Sak's public image." After 39 years it was time to retire and spend time with her great friend, Claudette Colbert. They split their time between a beautiful beach house in Barbados and a Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City. In her later years she split her time between New York and Charleston, spending time with dear friends and family. Helen is predeceased by her parents and brother, John (Johnny) O'Hagan. She is survived by her sister, Kathleen O'Hagan Blanchard, her nieces and nephews, Helaine Blanchard Christy, Paul Blanchard, Jay O'Hagan, David O'Hagan, Kathleen O'Hagan Hennessey and Frank O'Hagan, as well as many grandnieces and nephews, cousins and great friends. Due to current circumstances her Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Mary's Catholic Church at a later date. The Rite of Committal will take place at St. Lawrence Cemetery. Online condolences may be offered at www.CharlestonFunerals.com. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be sent to The Dock Street Theater, 135 Church St., Charleston, SC 29401, the Restoration Fund at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 89 Hasell St., 29401 or to Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, 869 Lexington Ave,. New York, NY 10065. Arrangements by JAMES A. MCALISTER, Inc. (843) 766-1365. Visit our guestbook at www.legacy.com/obituaries/ charleston

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Charleston Post & Courier from Jun. 16 to Jun. 17, 2020.
MEMORIAL EVENTS
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by James A. McAlister Funerals & Cremation
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
18 entries
July 10, 2020
Susan Kravet
Coworker
July 10, 2020
Susan Kravet
Coworker
July 10, 2020
I have such wonderful memories of a great boss and mentor. She was a strong force with a heart of gold and taught us all so much. This was a tribute I did for her retirement
Susan Kravet
Coworker
July 10, 2020
I have wonderful memories of a great boss and mentor with a strong personality and a heart of gold. Found this pic and a tribute I did for her retirement
Susan Kravet
July 5, 2020
Helen was a true icon. She was a role model, mentor, inspiration to so many of us that were lucky enough to work for her at Saks. My years working for her were without question, the most formative and most fun of my career and I often think of her and the many, incredible experiences that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Some 30 years later, I still smile when I hear her words of wisdom and wit in my head - which is more than you'd think! She was a legend and a gift to everyone who knew her.
Julie Kurtzman
Coworker
June 22, 2020
She was a great lady and an ornament to Charleston. The city will miss her, and here's hoping her papers will be preserved in an appropriate archives to honor her memory and many contributions.
Harlan Greene
Acquaintance
June 21, 2020
Helen was one of those rare individuals who was brilliant at what she did and was also such a kind a caring individuals. So many of my memories at Saks included observations of Helen. I will always recall her at the end of a runway with her camera.
David Salz
June 19, 2020
Grove of 35 Memorial Trees
Plant Memorial Trees
Sympathy Gift courtesy of
Peter Rogers
June 19, 2020
Helen was an industry icon and personal inspiration. She was smart, funny, bold and always knew what was right. I'm privileged to have known her for nearly 40 years.
Wendy Smolen
Friend
June 18, 2020
I knew Helen in the early 1960s. A friend of mine Margot Reynolds worked for her in publicity. She was great fun and rose to the top of saks. Nobody was like her, saks owes her a great deal. Joan garvin hammer
Joan Hammer
June 18, 2020
Helen was a wonderful person. She was kind, considerate and always gracious. We feel very fortunate to have known her and considered her a close friend. We will miss her. John and Alex
Ale Grant
Friend
June 18, 2020
I will miss my dear friend and coworker. She was the best!
Ellin Saltzman
Friend
June 18, 2020
Helen was a dear and loyal friend for over 50 years. She called me In jest husband and I called her wife in that spirit.
Tom Fallon
Tom Fallon
Friend
June 17, 2020
Plain & Simple...
Helen was a true Class Act in every sense of the word...
Michele Mickey Ateyeh
Retail Friend!
Michele Ateyeh
Friend
June 17, 2020
Sending condolences to Helens family and friends. I worked at Saks from 1970 to 1976 and had the pleasure of knowing Helen then. As a kid right out of college, she was such a leader in her field. I always loved seeing her at the fashion shows around the world and she always remembered that young kid at Saks so many years ago. RIP Helen.
Rosemary Audia
Coworker
June 16, 2020
We will miss you Helen .. you are in everyones thoughts and prayers
nancy walker
Friend
June 16, 2020
Sadly missed by very close friend. Mrs Harriott Means Johnson
Harriott Johnson
Friend
June 16, 2020
At Lincoln Center's Tribute to Claudette in 1984 with Helen and Claudette.
My deepest condolences to the family. I knew Helen through our mutual friend Claudette Colbert and spent many fun times together both in New York and in Barbados. And I was also good friends with Paul when he lived in New York. I will treasure the many memories of good times shared. May Helen rest in peace.
Andrew Achsen
Friend
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences