My beloved sister Helen Carter will always be remembered for her warm and dazzling smile. She liked to smile, and did so all the time because that is how she always looked at life. She was a happy and contented person, and in her quiet and unassuming way radiated that feeling wherever she went and with whomever she met.
Helen passed away in St. John’s November 25 at age 92, leaving to mourn a devoted family and large numbers of friends and admirers.
One of my earliest memories of Helen was actually a family story of a time, long before I was born, when she was a toddler playing outdoors near our Gower Street home. Somehow, I never heard how or why, she wandered away without anyone seeing her do so, and nobody knew where she’d gone. After hours of frantic searching, police showed up to report that the young truant had been picked up several blocks away, and she’d been taken to the police station. When returned thankfully at home, she seemed quite unruffled by the experience. As was her way.
In her teenage years, she was a bit of a tomboy, so much so that her friends playfully christened her “George,” yet she retained close friendships with many of her school mates throughout her lifetime. Although drifting apart while she worked and lived for many decades in Gander, she renewed many of these relationships upon returning to St. John’s after her children had all grown up.
In the latter years of the Second World War, Helen took a job with the Canadian Navy after school graduation, and she’d often come home with boyfriend admirers she’d met on the job. Then in 1944 she decided on a nursing career, and enrolled at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal. After graduation, she joined a fellow graduate for a short jaunt to Florida. Telling about her adventures there after returning home, I remember my father’s semi-serious reaction to her admission that she had been treated to an exotic cocktail known as a Singapore Sling. Helen did not think it was any big deal.
Some years ago, during one of her periodic visits with us in Ottawa, Madeline and I had the pleasure of taking her for a nostalgic return to Montreal to visit St. Mary’s which she recalled as one of her fondest memories. She loved nursing but had to abandon it for more lucrative employment in the aviation field in Gander.
I got a glimpse of her nursing role when I stopped off at Gander during a Christmas trip home from university in Nova Scotia in the early 1950s. She lived and worked in Gander hospital. It was a busy life which she greatly enjoyed, and had many friends and co-workers.
She took life’s adversities in stride, coping amazingly well with the burden of raising a family of five on her own after her beloved husband, Bob Carter, died suddenly in 1968 at the age of 46. Christine was born shortly after Bob died, and again Helen’s strength of character and commitment to her young children was demonstrable as she shepherded them through life.
Working for many years as a business manager with Eastern Provincial Airways, she later undertook yet another career as a vocational school business teacher and, while working full time, completed a degree in Vocational Education which was no small feat. Helen made summer sojourns to Moncton with the girls in tow to attend summer school where she earned credits towards her degree. The girls remember fondly the drive across the Island and then onto Moncton each summer.
Helen continued to take courses in Grand Falls, driving there to take courses. This put a lot of stress on her and she had a heart incident as a result – yet she persevered and received her degree just before she retired. A true testament to her commitment to get the degree.
Throughout her busy life as a working single mother, Helen found great enjoyment in cooking and baking, taking great delight in hosting dinner parties for family and friends. She greatly enjoyed reading until suffering vision problems, and indulged her passion for playing bridge with friends and neighbours. And by all accounts she played it very well. She was also fond of driving, and nothing frustrated her more in her latter years than having to give up driving.
Yet as everyone who knows her can attest, Helen’s outstanding achievement was her loving devotion to her family. This is especially evident in the remarkable personal and career achievements of her children – Bob in corporate affairs, Cathy and Brenda in hospital administration, Anne in her mother’s first love, nursing, and Christine in municipalities administration – all of whom Helen had ample cause to be highly proud of.
Helen’s whole life was all about love. We are all privileged to have known and loved her.