Helen Horton

Date of Birth

November 8th, 1932

Date of Death

July 16th, 2015

Memorial Meeting

Redwood Forest Friends Meeting


Helen was born on November 8, 1932 in Woodland, California. She grew up in a Presbyterian family in Davis, California. When the time came for her to attend college, her father insisted that she attend Occidental College in Los Angeles because it is a Presbyterian-related college. Helen spent 4 years there and loved the experience. However, the courses she took in the Bible resulted in her no longer being able to accept all of the church’s doctrine. She was struggling and troubled but had a spiritual experience which made a deep impression on her. One day, while at a Presbyterian Conference Center where she was working as a lifeguard, she went to a quiet place to have a conversation with God. After sitting quietly for a time, she felt a profound sense of peace that seemed to come out of nowhere. She described it as in the scriptures, a “peace that surpasses understanding.”

After college she attended the New York School of Social Work, where she earned a Master’s degree in Social Group Work. During graduate school she was placed in two settlement houses where she worked with minority children. Also during this time she married her high school sweetheart.

After graduate school Helen and her husband moved to the Bay Area where he completed his education at UC Berkeley. Helen worked for the Oakland Recreation Department. In the next few years Helen gave birth to two sons. As they grew Helen noticed that both boys were slow in developing. Often she would ask God “Why me?” But the answer that came back was “Why not you”? And when she complained to God that He wasn't there for her because all she saw was one pair of footprints on the ground, the answer came back, "Who do you think has been carrying you all this time?" She and her husband wanted another child but because of the boys’ disabilities they decided that adoption was the best option. Their daughter Rose came to them at the age of 7, when David was 11 and Stephen 14. Rose had a troubled background of abuse and neglect in her biological family and foster families.

Helen was living in Arlington, Virginia, when she started looking for a different religious experience. Brief encounters with Quakerism in her younger years led her to seek out a Quaker meeting, and the first time she attended the Washington DC meeting she felt that this was where she wanted to be.

Prior to the time she became a member of the Friends Meeting of Washington DC Helen had another spiritual experience. She re-read the Book of Job translated by Stephen Mitchell, and the theme of spiritual transformation in Job’s life resonated deeply with her own experience. Helen had earned a law degree and was working as an elder law attorney. This experience helped her provide care for her second husband, who was stricken with Alzheimer’s and died in 2012. Her son David, who lived nearby, passed away during this same period.

With her daughter Rose settled in Tucson and Stephen in Santa Rosa, Helen decided to move west. She chose Tucson first because she felt that Rose needed her most; the neglect and abuse Rose suffered in early childhood led to a troubled adulthood. However, despite Helen’s best efforts, Rose cut off all communication after 6 weeks. Helen then came to Santa Rosa, where she enjoyed a loving relationship with her son Stephen, who owns a business here.

Helen suffered a multitude of losses in the four years before she became a member of Redwood Forest Friends--eight deaths of family members including her son and husband, and abandonment by her daughter. Nevertheless, she said she came out of all these trials as a happy, centered person, and credited the Inner Light she experienced as a Quaker. Helen moved to Friends House shortly after becoming a member of the Meeting, and died of cancer there on July 16, 2015.