Helen Englert Blaum (1922 - 2017)

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    - Marvin Russell
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    - Harold "Rocky" Blaum
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Helen Englert Blaum, a former Big Band singer and beauty queen, passed away peacefully on September 27, 2017, at the age of 95, at Saint Joseph's Manor in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Helen, a native New Orleanian born in 1922, was raised in the Carrollton area and attended Mater Dolorosa Catholic School. In her early teens Helen blossomed into a beautiful young girl winning many local pageants. At the age of 15, with the urging of her friends, she won a local singing contest which spurred an expectedly career. She began singing at fairs, Pontchartrain Beach, and other local venues but was forbidden by her mother from singing in the French Quarter. Her talent was a blessing for her family during the hard times of the depression. Having beauty as well as talent, she was crowned Junior Miss New Orleans in 1939 and competed for the title of Miss Glamour Girl, which afforded her the opportunity of a steady job, singing with the Al Strieman Band in New Orleans. Still only 17 years of age she was introduced to the nationally known band leader, Larry Clinton, who was playing in Blue Room of The Roosevelt Hotel. Following an impromptu audition, Clinton hired her on the spot and changed her name to Helen Southern. At the age of 18, with a strict moral code dictated by her mother, Helen was allowed to tour with the band, who in Helen's words, "always treated her like a little sister." In 1940 Helen's rendition of "The Nearness of You" recorded with the Larry Clinton band, popularized the song at the time, and as a result has remained one of the top big band hits of the era. Helen returned home in 1941 to compete and win the title of Miss New Orleans. Later that year she represented Louisiana in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. At a petite 5'3" Helen was chosen to open the pageant ceremonies singing "Stardust", but did not place in the final beauty competition. Helen continued her singing career with big band leaders such as Woody Wilson, Jan Garber, and Jan Savitt, and added another stage name, Helen Warren. She also made singing appearances in the movie "Jam Session" with Ann Miller and Louis Armstrong, as well as "My Reputation" with Barbara Stanwych. During the war, she traveled the country, especially military bases, singing for the troops, and in particular remembered a photo shoot with a returning Doolittle raider. She had many keepsake items given to her by soldiers she barely knew, and many who never returned. At the end of the war she successfully screen tested with Lloyd Bridges and other "unknowns" in Hollywood for small acting jobs, but with little money to sustain her, she was forced to return home. Unfortunately wartime rationing coincided with the peak of Helen's singing career, therefore her talent would lack the recognition it deserved. Back in New Orleans, after the war, she began singing with the Leon Kelner band in the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel, where she performed until just before the birth of her first child in 1947. With her marriage to a Saxophonist not working out, Helen would again have to find steady work to support her mother and baby daughter. Well liked and innovative, Helen worked her way up to becoming a manager and buyer in the children's department at Maison Blanche. In 1952, she married Hal, a model and athlete, who was also on the way up at Maison Blanche. In 1955 Helen left her job at MB to expand her family by 2 more children. In 1960, she opened her retail store "Helen's", a maternity and baby store at the corner of Oak and Carrolton. Although successful, she closed the store less than 2 years later following the birth of her fourth child, and decided to devote her time to her family of 6, and a rental real estate business that she and Hal started from scratch, that could be managed in part from their home. Helen was a devoted wife, mother, daughter, and Catholic who put God and family first. She prayed the rosary, traveled multiple times to Rome, the Holy Land and Medugorje. She was generous and compassionate beyond expectation. She was a devoted spouse to her late husband, Hal, for 63 years. She loved Mardi Gras, Halloween, fashion, music and television. Her hobbies during her life were ceramics, gardening, and antique auctions. She was loved dearly by all but was especially close to her grandchildren and great grandchildren who affectionately called her Nonnie. On weekends she would gather her grandchildren and take them on special outings such as swimming on the gulf coast, Chuck E Cheese and Funworks. At age 90 she was featured in a segment of "Naturally N'awlins" and appeared on set with Frank Davis. Helen Yvonne Englert Blaum, spouse of the late Harold "Hal" Sydney Blaum, Sr., mother of Judy DeGiuli Blaum Harris, Harold "Rocky" Sydney Blaum, Jr., Melanie Blaum Thompson, and Bruce Thomas Blaum; grandmother of Rachel Harris Husbands, Shane Harris, Kristin Blaum Gonzalez, Jason Blaum, Michael Blaum, Ryan Thompson, Blake Thompson, Preston Blaum and Christopher Blaum. Great-grandmother of Helen, Thomas, Luke, Jonathan, Whitney, Marc, Ava, Ally, Ben, and Zach. Born on March 15, 1922 to the late Sebastian Henry Englert and the late Gertrude Myrtle Buford Englert, sister of the late Howard, Hubert and Dorothy Englert. Relatives and friends are invited to attend the Mass of Christian burial on Monday, October 2, 2017 at 11:00 AM at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home in New Orleans. A visitation will begin at 9:00 AM until service time. Interment to follow in Metairie Cemetery.
Published in TheNewOrleansAdvocate.com from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, 2017
Arrangements under the direction of:
Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home
5100 PONTCHARTRAIN BLVD | New Orleans, LA 70124 | (504) 486-6331
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