Homage to Helen

Helen Geneva Theresa Cecila Keefe Koester, Aug. 7, 1918 – Jan. 3, 2010. My mother, a remarkable woman with a contagious passion for life, died at the age of 91 in a nursing home in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s not just my three brothers and I who will miss her.IMG_0037   She had many friends and fans and seemed to touch the hearts of whomever she met.

“She was a delightful lady.  We’re better off for knowing her.”  “She was a sweet heart.” – comments from the staff in the homes where she recently resided.

She loved to talk, socialize and make new friends. She was quick to praise and compliment, often telling those she met that they had beautiful eyes, a lovely dress, a nice smile…She made people feel good.

Helen was a classy lady who loved clothes, jewels, furs, pretty things – and chocolate.  Her numerous collections included Hummels, madonnas, miniature turtles, silver spoons, and ceramic Bourbon bottles (although she was a teetotaler).  But chocolate was her 2009_1103usaoct090095 passion.  She used to hide Hershey bars and Oreo cookies in secret places for her chocolate fix.  Growing up, we’d beg her to make her famous chocolate cake.  She claimed my father proposed after tasting it.  Whenever we visited in recent years, we’d take her to Graeter’s, her favorite ice cream shop, for a chocolate cone.  I sent frequent care packages from Europe with quality chocolate.  (I figured she deserved better than Hershey bars).

She was also an animal lover – a trait she Helen1 passed on to all her offspring. We always had a dog, at least one cat, as well as fish, chameleons, mice, birds,– even a pet crow.  In recent years her constant companion was Brandie, a cream-colored toy poodle who clung to her like Velcro. 

But, her children were her life.  She showered us with love and attention.  Not just us.  Ours was the house in the neighborhood where all the kids would congregate.  She was fun to be around.  As children, she made sure we all learned to swim – summer swimming lessons at a nearby pool were a must.

She loved fun and adventure.  When she was in her ’70s we took her on a thrilling white water rafting trip in Colorado. She often came to visit me in Europe and was the perfect traveling companion on our numerous treks to different countries. She was thrilled with new sights and experiences.  However, I went too far when I took her on a Greek cruise – not the luxury kind.  It was a small boat in July.  The sea was rough. The tiny cabin was scorching – no air conditioning.  She got terribly sea sick, but did not complain, although she said she’d never get on another boat after that.

Helen considered herself “Irish,” as her distant ancestors hailed from the Emerald Isle.  I insisted she was “American” to no avail.  On St. Patrick’s Day we were awakened Helen with “When Irish eyes are smiling,” blasting from the hi fi. She made sure we wore green on March 17.  She was proud of her beautiful hair, “good Irish stock,” she called it, and told me I was lucky that I inherited it.

Of course, she was not perfect.  She could be very stubborn, and her temper was not one to reckon with.  We had our share of mother – daughter fights. 

But, dear Helen, you were fantastic and incredible and wonderful.  I miss you. I treasure the memories you’ve provided.

4 thoughts on “Homage to Helen”

  1. Leah, I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your Mom. My sympathy to you and your siblings.
    You wrote such a beautiful tribute to her; I’m sure she must have been a remarkable woman.


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