Remembrance of the Life of Helen McAvoy Reid CoL
The following remembrance was prepared by Helen’s children:
Helen Reid lived in grace and joy from her first to her last breath. She was a beloved mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, friend and Loretto Co-member, whose love never wavered.
Widowed at a young age, with five children to comfort and raise, she met every day head-on, provided it didn’t start too early, of course! And while her health took a turn with the onslaught of COPD, nothing slowed her down and never took away the deep love of fun she had or the twinkle in her eye. She had countless friends spanning many decades and from all walks of life, but above all, she loved her family with all her heart.
Helen grew up in Joplin, Mo., the youngest of seven children. A common thread running through Helen’s life was teaching, education and leadership. While still in college, she spent summers teaching swimming and was in charge of Joplin’s swimming programs at four municipal pools. After graduating from Webster University in Webster Groves, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, she taught English at Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. During her first year of teaching, she married her sweetheart, Dick (Sam) Reid, whose intelligence and sense of humor had won her over and kept her enthralled throughout their marriage. In the ensuing years, they had five children.
Over the years, Dick’s career as a professor of economics would take them from St. Louis to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and finally to the University of New Hampshire in Durham, where they settled into a large colonial farmhouse with their family. Tragically, on Thanksgiving weekend in 1974, Dick died suddenly of a heart attack at age 46, leaving Helen a single mother and sole provider for her family. She gamely got back into the working world at age 40, as director of education outreach at the UNH Museum of Art. She virtually created the role, organizing volunteers to work with school children, adults and the many artists whom she encouraged and for whom she advocated through the years. Her impact in that role would be lasting — on both the people she worked with and the artists, who even today speak of her with great affection and bestow many of their works on her. Helen retired after 27 years with the museum, but put in more years on the Board of Advisors.
To say that Helen was passionate about art was an understatement. She was an artist at heart with a great eye for color and design her whole life. In addition, she was a weaver and a member of the NH Weavers Guild.
Another passion of Helen’s was politics. She was an ardent Democrat, who once toyed with running for office. She was a leader of the Citizens for Voter Education, encouraging people to vote, about which she felt strongly. Even as it became more difficult for her to get to the polls, she never missed an election, even if it was by absentee ballot.
It is difficult to overstate the impact Helen had on those around her. Her wit, her irreverence, and her ability to connect and draw out everyone she met made her irresistible to people of all ages and all walks of life. Above all else, she loved her family with all her heart. She is survived by her five children and their spouses, her eight grandchildren, two of her six siblings, Sister Marian McAvoy and Louis, two sisters-in-law, and many special nieces and nephews.
The following is drawn from Helen Reid’s papers at the Loretto Archives. In 2009 Helen wrote about her membership in the Loretto Community:
“I want people to understand that although I can’t attend many functions, I truly wish I could be there, especially for Community Group meetings. I am so proud to be part of the Loretto Community. I feel I am always on the receiving end and am grateful for that. I read all the publications and keep up with news that way. Also I talk frequently with my sister, Marian McAvoy, who keeps me in the loop for news and information about people and events.
“The values of Loretto have had an influence on my life and the lives of my family through the years. The influence has been immeasurable. I participate in the work of the Community through acting on the values. The stands Loretto has taken for peace and justice are part of my life in many personal ways. Sometimes they are shown in small ways, such as how much tip I leave at a restaurant. I [support] Loretto’s stand for gay rights and am pleased that New Hampshire is beginning to consider allowing gay marriage. I am active politically. I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party that foster justice through action. I believe in thinking globally and acting locally, and I do what I can. These are big concepts but personal ones. Thinking of justice makes a difference in many everyday ways. I especially like the opportunity of community groups where smaller groups can work together.
“I feel a part of Loretto even when I feel I don’t do much. My heart and soul are with the Community even when my body says in New Hampshire!
“Loretto members are a great inspiration for me, wonderful examples. I believe we get sustenance from one another. My deep affection and respect for the Community is [continually] strengthened. Issues which members have courageously confronted have consistently broadened my vision.
“Being accepted as a Co-member has been a particularly meaningful experience. It was one of Marian’s last official acts as Loretto president. She did not know I was applying to be a Co-member and found out only at the Assembly at Estes Park — [Sister Kath O’Malley secretly facilitated the process]. It was a proud moment for both of us.”
Helen’s Co-membership contract with Loretto was signed by herself and her sister, Marian, on Aug. 11, 1984. When she died in New Hampshire in the circle of her family, Helen Reid had shared nearly 33 years of her life with Loretto, contributing as she had promised, “my abiding respect, my support, my home, my love, all that I have to share that I am able to share.”