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Weekly Tips & Insights

A Visit-A-Bit Story: Helen

Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis started “Visit-A-Bit” this year in an attempt to reach out to seniors who are isolated and often lonely. What follows is a brief synopsis of the remarkable life of a senior we crossed paths with in our new program. Interviewed by Mike Roberts.

On a somewhat busy street in south St. Louis, lined with those gingerbread houses you’d pass on the way to Ted Drews, there is one that belongs to Helen.

She is a bit slow to answer the door, but gets there before the second knock. Opening it, she smiles and invites you in, walking- unassisted- through her house to her kitchen table where you are invited to sit. She sees well enough, hears just enough and laughs quite easily as balloons drift back and forth above her head.

On September 5, Helen turned one hundred and three years old.

As a young woman, Helen moved to the big city of St. Louis, working as a bullet inspector during war time. She married in 1941, but lost her young husband to a car accident in 1950. Later, she re-married but never had any children of her own, so she spent the rest of her life helping her sister with her children and other parents with theirs at a private school.

Funny, humble and patient, Helen expediently answers enough questions to get you into the twenty first century. It’s quite a conversation, yet only one part of her fascinating story. The incredible part comes in when she explains her family ties.

Helen’s paternal grandfather fought in in the Civil War for the North, while her maternal grandfather fought for the South. Though Abraham Lincoln warned: ‘’A house divided against itself cannot stand,’’ Helen survived a host of relatives on either side of the Mason-Dixon line.

Though Helen’s parents divorced when she was young, and her father was advanced in years at the time of her birth, she had a great relationship with him and holds many stories about his life.

Her father Tiffen, born in 1851, followed the Ohio river downstream from the Buckeye state, working the paddle wheelers. He settled near Murfreesboro and eventually met and married Helen’s mother, Nell. When he was barely a teenager, he told a very big lie about his age so that he could serve in the Civil War.

This means that sweet, quiet Helen, in her lovely home in south St. Louis, is a daughter of the Civil War.

Amazing. Historic. True.


This is the kind of very rare story you might just hear if you volunteer with the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis. For questions related to Visit-A-Bit, pease reach out to us by going to our website or giving us a call:

Phone: (314) 918 -7171


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