Helen Corson

by Helen Walton

from Friends of London Grove Meeting
 Perhaps, the Helen Corson I knew differed from the obvious, which recounted years of service to human causes. Yes, this small woman from far Minnesota devoted most of her adult life to assisting, in any way she found available, those around her who were in physical or spiritual need. But, I felt she was an acquired older sister, because as she lived with us for a number of years, there was a sincere sharing of ideas, work, and friends, as well as books and Meeting work. She was a good critic of my writings, and I, of her needle-work. We enjoyed mutual friends. She loved to entertain them here, so during Helen's years with us (1950's and early 1960's) we enjoyed the Poley's from Germantown, Frieda Isley from Germany, Clarence Jordan of Koiania (where we get our pecans), Frederick Libby, Raymond Wilson, a group called the “WIG"s (Women's Inter-Racial Group), and so many others. I was so glad that my strength held out for the impact.

For a while, Helen had a suitor. She really considered his proposal. She would pack lunch for two, and they would meet under the Oak at the Meeting. I expect the Oak has many secrets, and doesn't it keep them well? Finally, the romance ended. Helen said she had nothing against marriage. In fact, when she found a man who was better than no man at all, she would probably marry him. They still enjoyed each other during Yearly Meeting sessions, as long as Helen was able to attend.

Helen and I often joked about our being like “two ships that pass in the night." It was true, too. She and Frank always argued, and both of them enjoyed it. Sitting between them at dinner wasn't the happiest experience for me. Even if I needed to, I couldn't have gotten a word in edgewise. During World War II, she used to argue about the war with Thomas Passmore at Meeting. Once I said, "Helen, he's not young, and you're raising his blood pressure.” Her reply was, "Oh, if only I could."

When Unionville School was being pressured to build a bomb shelter, Helen went out to get signatures on a petition against the expenditure. She went dutifully to every home in West Marlboro Township. Ice and snow were everywhere, but she felt the challenge and accepted it. Of such stuff was our Helen made.

She lived with frugality, but sent a monthly packet of foods and clothes to a family in Germany. Six nieces were also of concern to her. She gave help, in their various situations as long as she was able. They are lovely persons, who loved Aunt Helen dearly. Very concentrated on world issues. Helen was absent-minded about numerous small things she wanted to remember. She developed a system, whereby, she would write a note about whatever it was that needed remembering, and throw it on the floor, or on a stairway. It might have worked if she had lived elsewhere, but I would stop and pick up the paper, which to me didn't belong there. Later, Helen would say, "You made me miss that important meeting." I never could feel “blame", just despair! If we hadn't respected each other, we wouldn't have "made it.”

Amazingly, we parted friends and felt a bond to the end of Helen's life. She left here to move, a bit indirectly, to the Friends Boarding Home in Kennett Square. It was time for her to relocate, as she so loved to travel, and with another winter, it was and had been far from wise for her to travel to far off meetings, returning alone, late at night. As Douglas Steere used to say, "Now, I see that Helen Corson has arrived, we may as well start." She so loved to meet with, and I believe, to find strength from like-minded people to undergird her convictions. She was a good mixer. Her sense of humor was obvious. She would use it to lighten many drab occasions. She didn't wish Friends or others to sing "Faith of Our Fathers" because she said not one of us would dare to die for our beliefs, so why say that we would. At a reception on her eighty-ninth birthday, all went well until "Abide With Me" was used as a hymn (all five verses). Helen said, "Let's sing 'God of Grace, and God of Glory'" a truly majestic and meaningful hymn, written by Harry Emerson Fosdick. The words are on page 105 of the World Fellowship Songs. They are action oriented, expressing much of Helen's philosophy of living. She was not ready to sing "Help of the helpless, Oh abide with me."

Helen lived under the direct guidance of God. She relied on God for all of the direction and determination of her life. She accepted divine healing, as a natural attribute of her faith. As truly intelligent folks are able to do, she could adapt to change without perturbation. She was an adult leader at First-day School. Her memory served her until her last illness. Her ministry was a teaching type, and her devotion to peace and human rights were often uppermost in it, tho', scholar that she was, Bible lore also was a mainstay of her ministry.

I remember Helen with affection and as a dear sister that I loved and admired, thru which my patience with people and my understanding of their frailties have been enhanced. She represented the best that London Grove could possibly offer, in faith, hope, love, and service to her friends, her family, her community, the world. It has been good to share with you at this late hour in the world's history, when answers to world problems could be found if only there were enough "Helens", such as our dear friend.

Dorothy Brosius offers the following recollection. "Helen Corson was to me all that it meant to be a Christian and a Quaker. She was fond of reminding us to 'let our lives speak'; she would say that that was a phrase we liked to use, whereas many of ours spoke in whispers. While she modestly included herself in the 'we', hers was loud and clear. Lest we think of her as too perfect to be human, I like to recall the time when the Meeting and her many, many friends and Friends gave her a party for her eighty-ninth birthday. The social room was filled to overflowing for the covered dish supper, the Meeting room crowded as we gathered to express our love and tribute to her, to recount reminiscences and attempts at appreciation. She was obviously enjoying it all. When the time came for her to respond, I can see her yet: she was,wearing a simple green print dress with a gauzy green scarf pinned at her throat, her white hair was soft about her face, and her eyes twinkled as she said, 'You know, this is better than being present at my own memorial service. '”

From: Friends of London Grove Meeting, a Meeting publication from 1982.