|James A. and Sue B. Mullins
Her husband of half a century said, "Your mother never met a stranger." Indeed, Helen Mae Blunt has spent a life-time strengthening communities; where one doesn't already exist, she creates one.
Helen was a "non-traditional woman" before the term was broadly applied. She's been as determinedly strong as her mother, who defied her wealthy family to elope with a handsome (but poor) Irishman. Helen and Larry eloped, too, although their family financial situations were reversed. Only on their 50th wedding anniversary did the couple reveal to their children the secret 6 months of weekends together prior to their "official" nuptials.
Helen was the first in her family to graduate from high school and the first to complete "post secondary" education. Neither children nor grandchildren nor great-grandchildren assume that continual learning is other than a natural part of life. Society dictated Helen's resignation from her position as secretary to the principal of East High in Denver, CO. In 1935 most women did not work after marriage; they most assuredly did not (at least in visible positions) when their pregnancies "began to show”!
Helen's family leave continued for 17 years. With Sue at Iowa State College and "Pug" about to enter Beloit, Helen went back to education. "Just down the street" at National College of Education in Evanston, IL, she officially became part of the small college's development team. Unofficially, she became ad hoc counselor to lonely students. With Larry's early business travels -- one year he was home 5 days -- Helen was emotionally a "single parent" to their two small children. She gained experience in reaching out, to gather in, and to gather the diverse people in her world. She shared and honed her skills in Girl and Boy Scouts. No new neighbor had a chance to place the sofa before Helen was knocking with an introduction, a casserole, and--shortly--an invitation to join the PTA, the bridge club, the car pool, the library, the Republican Party.
Soon, disparate organizations in need of volunteer managerial leadership knew they might be lucky and convince Helen Blunt that she should direct their latest project. Thus, when the Evanston School District needed someone to help develop a program for "exceptional" children, those formerly institutionalized for varied handicapping conditions, Helen was asked to develop the District initiative.
Throughout her children's growing years, Helen remained the Big Sister to whom her younger siblings -- and sometimes parents -- turned in time of special need. Until well into her 80's and widowed, Helen supported one sister through her terminal illness and provided distance care for another and her stroke-impaired spouse. Helen carried her sense of community into retirement, back to Denver, their original home. The young teen who started her day at 5:30, tossing sweet roll dough in the family restaurant kitchen, left a comfortable upper middle class adult life to help Larry manage his inherited apartment building. She learned to sell a unit (after scrubbing it "German clean") and to respond to tenant emergencies. Then they moved to their retirement home where -- once again -- Helen delivered their first resident meal to newcomers and then engaged them in condo activities. She moved back into the larger community, re-establishing a reputation for organizational know-how and creativity.
As Larry's physical health began to fail, he insisted that she maintain her volunteer schedule. In her early 80s, Helen became the second recipient of the Denver Art Museum's Ceil Bock Award for Volunteerism. The award recognized her recruitment and scheduling of the Museum's 500 volunteers and later-in-life role as Docent in the French Impressionists collection. Now celebrating the end of her eighth decade, Helen's black-brown eyes sparkle at the antics of her two-year-old great-grandson ("Just the smartest child that ever was!").
She helps staff, the circulation desk at the 5000-member retirement community library, for which she processes all now volumes and fights censorship efforts. The Denver Children's hospital benefits from the months she spends fashioning small craft items for the annual fund-raiser. Her grand-daughter complains that she can't ever find Grandma at home so they can set up a weekend afternoon visit.
The years that Helen has devoted to creating community have resulted in a community which supports her. Helen will look up from her morning crossword puzzle, a small smile playing across her lips. "You know people must think I'm crazy. To plan a cruise the month after my 90th birthday. Just what do you think of that?"
"Women of our Family
Sue Blunt Mullins
Jennifer Mullins Jones
Gesa Zinn Mullins"