Helen Talcott Currier was born in Livingston, Montana, on March 24, 1924, the eldest daughter of four children. The family lived in Gardiner, very near Yellowstone National Park. Two of Helen’s aunts worked in the park even before establishment of the National Park Service. They were the first and second woman rangers in a National Park. The family made frequent trips to Yellowstone on horseback.
Helen graduated with honors from Montana State University, earning a degree in Home Economics. After World War ll, she taught for three years at a Quaker farm school in Greece. While there, she met Arthur Currier, a veteran who had served in both the US Navy and the Marine Corps, during WWll and the Korean War. Helen and Arthur were married December 29, 1949, in a Quaker wedding in Greece.
The couple returned to the US for the birth of their first child, Gordon, on November 29,1950. They lived In Portola Valley for a brief time,and then settled in the Palo Alto area.
Their second son, Paul, was born October 5, 1952, and their daughter, Virginia, on March 16, 1954. Gordon was a brilliant student, who knew Japanese and Chinese languages. He was a musician who could play many instruments. Gordon went to Dartmouth and while there, at the age of 19, he had a schizophrenic break. Little was known about that illness and its typical appearance in late teens. Serving as Gordon’s advocate and caregiver was a preoccupation throughout Helen’s life. He also had heart disease, and died of Covid at the age of 60, only weeks before Helen’s death.
Both Helen and Arthur were active in Palo Alto Friends Meeting, becoming members in 1960. Helen helped set up Friends’ Preschool, which continues to this day as Friends Nursery School. For three summers during the late 1950s, the family worked on an AFSC service project at the Klamath Indian Reservation. In 1962-63 they went to Japan in a cultural exchange program, and attended the Tokyo Meeting while there.Arthur was clerk of the Meeting from 1964 to 1967.
After 21 years of marriage, Arthur and Helen became separated and then divorced in 1971. Arthur remarried and attended infrequently, though retaining his membership in the PAFM. He died in 1998.
Helen worked for Friends Outside, helping prisoners and their families, first as a volunteer and later with a position in the organization. Helen was the Home Economist for the Palo Alto Co-op, on and off over the years. Friends from Palo Alto Meeting remember her as a consumer advocate at the local Co-op grocery store, describing Helen as very kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable, having a friendly and helpful presence.
For 13 years, Helen was Kitchen Manager at the Palo Alto Senior Day Health Program sponsored by the Palo Alto Senior Center, which was held in rented space at the Baptist Church on East Meadow. Jan Moore knew Helen as the cook/nutritionist for the “frail seniors” whom they served. Helen and her assistant prepared and served lunch and healthy snacks for about 20-25 people every workday. Jan said, “Helen was always cheerful, upbeat and fun, interacting with staff and with the seniors we served, graciously meeting their special dietary needs and preferences… As director of the program, I was often ‘buried’ in paperwork and could always count on a short chat withHelen to restore my energy.”
Helen served as clerk of PAFM in 1985. In 1992, she joined a delegation to El Salvador with South Bay Sanctuary Covenant and SC Council of churches.
Helen was active in setting up Friends House in Santa Rosa, where she was on the board, driving back and forth from Palo Alto. After retirement she moved to Friends House, living there for over 10 years. She continued to swim, enjoy classical music, family gatherings, and gardening. Her daughter Virginia says that Helen “never left Palo Alto Friends Meeting. Even after she moved to Friends House, PAFM was still her home.”
Jan Moore describes seeing Helen when she lived at Friends House, when Jan moved to Santa Rosa (after living many years in Ukiah). “I visited her once at her daughter’s house, would see her at the YMCA pool, and then at several different skilled nursing facilities as her health declined. Helen would introduce me to her roommates, her new friends, in each setting, filling the room with her cheerfulness.” Later, Jan would often think of Helen, “grateful for having known her, to see how she was walking her path, and how she (Jan) might walk her own.”
Helen’s last six months of life were spent in her daughter and son-in-law’s home. “As she said to her daughter Virginia, “I would like to make your home, my home.” Her last days were peaceful, enjoying family meals, music, and conversation.
Helen was 96 when she died on August 5, 2020. Both of her sons died before her: Paul Talcott Currier on November 5, 2012; Gordon,in 2020.She is survived by her daughter,Virginia, 5 grandchildren, and an abundance of great grandchildren.