Monday, January 27, 2014

Remembering Helen Fannie Bartlett Hudson Lovaas

Helen died this January.  She was the sister I never had, along with Anita, of course.  Anita Louise Merryman Bowers is my longest known friend, we met on the very first day of kindergarten.  Helen came into our lives a few years later.

There have been others who have blessed me with their sister-hood: Barbara, Nancy, Susie, Marcia, JoAnne, Marty, Ginny, to name just a few, but I digress.

Anita, Helen and I were an inseparable three-some all during our school years. We loved being together and called each other Fartlett, Merryhairy, and Frizzy Lucille.  We thought we were very clever and funny.

In the 1950's, Temple City, California, was a blue collar, predominately lily white community.  I lived right around the corner from the school, so Helen and Anita were almost always at my house.  My mother, a stay at home mom, loved my friends, but she feared that their blue collar upbringing was not preparing them in certain areas, like table manners, the use of good grammar, and just the normal every day things that proper young ladies should know and practice.  I, of course was mortified when my mother lectured and corrected my friends, but it didn't cause them to stay away from my house.  In fact, I noticed, they often sought out my mother and had long talks with her.

Then Helen and I went away to college together.  We went by overnight train to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona.  We arrived wearing dresses, hats and gloves.  The year was 1956.

Helen had lots of family in Tucson.  I arrived knowing nothing and nobody, except that my dear Cousin Carol Anne Fitch Juliani had loved her time at the UofA and her recommendation was all I needed.

Helen and I had decided not to room together.  We didn't want to appear cliquish and unfriendly.  In hindsight, that was our first mistake.  Helen's roommate was a student in the College of Agriculture.  The first thing she did every morning was light up a Lucky Strike.  The last thing she did every night was bring her saddle into the room, so no one would steal it.  Helen complained all the time about the smell of smoke and horse sweat that she had to live with.

My room-mate was a mousy, wimpy little thing, desperately homesick for the farm back in Iowa.  She left before the end of our first semester.  Helen moved into my room in the freshman only, women only, dorm; Yavapai.  Life was perfect.

We found total hilarity and a little less compatibility, in the personality of each other.  Helen just moved and talked slower than me.  I was always early and she was always late.  I had pledged Delta Gama and Helen became a Gamma Phi.  She made her grades and was initiated with my mother's pin.  I didn't make my grades . . . for three semesters.

In those days, the dorm big shots conducted random room checks.  If your beds (they were bunks, me on top, Helen on the lower) were not neatly made, three times, you were campused on a Friday night.  No one wanted to miss all the TGIF festivities.  Helen and I were always campused.  The rules were strict.  No visitors allowed.

We spent our campused evenings playing, "Ah Hell." (Never studying, which was probably the intended purpose of the whole thing.)  It was a double solitaire-type card game that we played with two decks of cards, sitting on the floor, with an overturned cardboard box as our card table.  The one who got the most cards on the middle stacks when an ace was played, was the winner.  We slapped each others hands so hard and so often trying to get our card played first, that our hands became beet red in the process.  We yelled and screamed and laughed so loud that the dorm Pooh-bah would bang on our door and demand to know who all was in our room?  We'd open the door, after a "drive-her-crazy planned wait" and greet her with, "TA DUM."  We knew she hated us, but it was what she deserved for campusing us all the time.  We didn't have time to make our beds, for heavens sake!

I was blessed to be welcomed into Helen's family.  They were all so good to me.  We would check out of the dorm and spend weekends with her Aunt Susie Bollin.  Her son Rex and his partner Bob, lived there too.  We must have been such an annoyance to them, except we didn't realize it at the time.  If I answered Aunt Susie's phone when one of them called from work, I would always hear insulting comments like, "Are you there cookie snatching, again?" or  "I need to talk to the only person in the house that has a lick of good sense."  I'm sure they probably said even worse things to Helen, but secretly we loved to be teased by them and they always made us laugh.

Helen's Aunt Wilmarine Atkinson came and rescued me from the infirmary on campus once when I got really sick.  She insisted on taking me home and nursing me back to health.  She had four children.  How blessed I was by her kindness and caring, and all because I was Helen's friend.

Helen and I took a folk dancing class together.  We were really good at the polka.  In fact, we were the very best polka-ing couple in the class and our fancy footwork was the envy of all our class mates. 

Helen thought it was hysterical to use my toothbrush to style her eyebrows.  I retaliated by sticking a few hundred pin holes in he tube of toothpaste.  I know there are countless other things we constantly did to each other, but they are just too numerous to list.

We graduated, got married, and moved away from each other.  Helen married Alan Hudson, a class-mate of ours and became the hard working brains behind the Hudson Oxygen Therapy Company,   Eventually becoming the CEO.  She spent 38 years at Hudson.  She was really good at it, too.

By the time Alan Hudson died, he and Helen were divorced and she was married to Dr. Lee Lovaas.  Alan left the business to her and she turned right around and made a generous donation, in his name, to the Sarver Heart Board at the University of Arizona.  She and Lee were active board members at Sarver for many years.

One day, while talking on the phone, I told Helen that I had an appointment to see a cardiologist at Sarver.  She wanted to know who it was and when I told her, she said, "Oh No.  You need to see Dr. Gordon Ewy."  I argued that he was famous, had invented compression CPR, and was not taking new patients."  She told me we'd have to see about that.  Two days later, Dr. Ewy called me to tell me I had an appointment to see him.  He said that Helen told him to see me and he always did everything Helen told him to do.

In 2008, Dr. Ewy oversaw my aortic valve replacement surgery.  The care I received could not have been better.  Ron and I were blessed to become friends and patients of Dr. Ewy and we now serve on the Sarver Heart Center Board.  All of this happened because of my friend, Helen.

Years later, Anita, Helen and I were reminiscing about our girlhood years, and I attempted to apologize for my mother's lectures to them.  Oh no, they both assured me, and they expressed their deep gratitude for the opportunity to learn so many important life lessons from her.  They felt it was very dear of her to care and want to improve their lives.  Anita felt that her mother either didn't know enough or didn't really care about such things.  Helen went even further.  She said she never would have been a Gamma Phi without my mother's influence, and she would not have been a proper bride for the only son of a very prominent family.  Hers was a huge, heartfelt, admission that not many people would have been willing to articulate.

Helen said  it to Anita and me with deep conviction and a great deal of gratitude.  I made me so proud of both my friend and my mother.  I know they are having the best Gamma Phi reunion in heaven that two sisters could ever enjoy.  But I miss them both.

                                          Helen, me and Anita in 1997.

A memorial service was held for Helen on January 25, 2014.  My daughter Lisa and I drove over to Southern California from Tucson.  The large "campus" of The Emmanuel Faith community church was filled with Helen's family and friends.  Many gave testimony to her generosity and friendship. 

"She was not only my boss at Hudson, she was my dear friend," was something we heard over and over.  As the Hudson Company grew,  under her leadership, she hired people to do yet another job that she had been doing.  She knew how to do everything.  When the computer age arrived, she went to "programming school" so she'd know how to do that, too. 

I always thought Helen was quite amazing, but at her memorial service I learned that she was even more incredible than I had known.  Well done, dear friend.  You will be missed by so many.

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