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Helen Elizabeth Derr

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Helen Elizabeth Derr Obituary
Helen Elizabeth Derr

Helen Elizabeth Derr of Alexandria passed away about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Regency House at the age of 92.

She had been a longtime resident of the Paradise area of what is now Ball before moving first to Pineville and then to Alexandria in the last decade.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in Woodland Presbyterian Church, 2889 Military Highway, Pineville, with Jane Conerly and the Rev. Nancy Hendrix officiating. Burial will be in Greenwood Memorial Park, Pineville.

Friends may call from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. today in the chapel of Hixson Bros., Pineville.

Helen was born December 17, 1918, in Clarks, Nebraska and grew up in Iowa. She graduated from Rinard High School and Iowa State University.

She was married for 50 years to Harold Derr, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Pineville. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Helen was preceded in death by her parents, Bessie and Edward Clark; her husband, Harold Derr; and her son, Rusty Derr.

Survivors include her daughter Mary Sharkey of Ball and husband Richard; her son Allan Derr of Villa Park, Illinois, and his wife Betsy; her daughter-in-law, Tina Derr of Altadena, California; her sister, Margaret Dorr of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; seven grandchildren, Megan Sharkey Conerly and husband Colin, William Sharkey, Amy Derr Stapleton and husband Steve, Kevin Derr and fiancee Marie, Melissa Derr Schmidt and husband Jeff, Eric Derr and Laura Derr; and one great-grandchild, Zackary Conerly.

Helen was a nationally recognized religion writer during her 22-year career as a Town Talk reporter. She also covered education for The Town Talk. While reporting for The Town Talk on school and desegregation issues, she covered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech in the Rapides Parish Coliseum in 1966.

She retired from The Town Talk in July 1977 and later taught journalism at Louisiana College in Pineville and wrote for Catholic newspaper The Church Today.

In 1967, she won the national Religious Public Relations Council for Excellence in Religion Reporting. Only two papers in the country were recognized by the group for their religion coverage that year - The Town Talk and the New York Times.

In 1972, Helen won the national Presbyterian Church award for religion reporting. She also earned awards from the national and state Federations of Press Women. Upon her retirement from The Town Talk, the Alexandria Ministerial Alliance honored her as "the Cenla Prophet with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other."

She was a co-founder of Friendship House day-care for adults in Alexandria in 1982 and served as the program's first president.

Helen was involved in civic and church affairs, including serving for more than 10 years on the board of directors of the Family Counseling Agency and serving as president and chairman of Church Women United in Central Louisiana. She served on the presbytery committees of South Louisiana, was the first female deacon at First Presbyterian Church of Alexandria and served on the task force that organized the creation of Woodland Presbyterian Church in Pineville.

In 1996, Alexandria Mayor Ned Randolph declared December 22 of that year as "Helen Derr Day" for her contributions to the community.

She was a wonderful woman who will truly be missed.

The family requests memorials be made to Friendship House, 114 Sixth St., Alexandria, LA 71301 or to Woodland Presbyterian Church, 2889 Military Highway, Pineville, LA 71360.

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Published in The Town Talk on June 24, 2011
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