November 14, 2013 5:44 AM
Born on July 2, 1919 in Fairfield, CT to Allen A. and Katherine S. Johnson, Helen was a real Connecticut Yankee. She graduated from Sherman High School, went to Wheaton College then transferred and graduated in Political Science from Stanford University in 1941.
In her own words, Helen told her story on the 60th anniversary of her Stanford graduating class.
"I wonder where to begin: in Connecticut as the child of an old New England family? as a teenager - camp counselor - tennis player?
Fresh from the rigors of strict study habits at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, I came to Stanford as a junior transfer student in September 1939. California was whole new adventure - life in Lagunitas - where I was shown a so-called lake (dry?), was busy and studying continuously but soon I realized I didn't need to work all the time. So I learned to play golf on the Stanford course, became involved in the YWCA, and made some Palo Alto friends.
Under Pat Davison we organized students to set up a play center in a Santa Clara orchard shack where children of field workers came to play and learn. We begged and borrowed art supplies and books. It was an eye opener for me to see how miserable living conditions were for those families - remember, this was before Cesar Chavez.
As senior sponsor in 'Roble' I tried to help freshmen women put into perspective their agony about "rushing" for sorority. 18 year-olds so traumatized by people whose judgment left much to be desired. I had many sorority friends, but the institution had little to offer me.
Being tapped for Cap and Gown really pleased me as Roz Bacon and others made me feel so welcome and worthwhile.
My mother came from Connecticut (her first trip west) for my graduation and afterwards took me on a glorious trip through the Canadian Rockies en route east.
War was beginning and I landed a job as YWCA Program Coordinator for Women in Industry in Bethlehem, PA. Many of them were from immigrant families from Eastern Europe - wonderful cooks! Then came training at Columbia University for the USO. I was sent to Camp Lee, VA to assist women in the military. When posted to San Diego as a member of the staff of the USA Women's Center, I worked with mostly young women in the airplane industry who came from all over the United States. We helped them with housing, child care, health care and recreation - all very hard to come by in a bursting embarkation port for the South Pacific.
In 1944, my husband, Harland Frederick (CAL, Berkeley 1928) and I were married in Berkeley and settled there to teach and raise two sons and two daughters. Berkeley was a 'cutting edge' city and I enjoyed the academic life as well as working for the league of Women Voters as Education Chair.
This led to my later taking courses in Learning Theory and eventually enrolling and completing an MA at San Francisco State University in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. I was also teaching part-time at Berkeley Hills Cooperative Nursery School. Our work with the University of California Institute of Child Welfare, Pacific Oaks, Vassar, and Bank Street College led to the development of an early childhood day-care model, which later became Head Start.
As president of the California Association for the Education of Young Children, I witnessed the work of many California communities as they started day care centers with parent education components.
The National War on Poverty brought money to train early childhood teachers and aides. I supervised these students at several East Bay community colleges (Chabot, Diablo Valley) and joined the Nurseries in Cross Cultural Education teaching at San Francisco State.
This field burgeoned and I went to set up Early Childhood curricula in Connecticut (Norwalk) and California (Mira Costa) colleges.
The opportunity came to go to Australia as Principal Lecturer in Early Childhood Education at Hartley College in Adelaide, South Australia. This was a fascinating two years, training teachers for all types of schools including those on Aboriginal lands.
So, by 1980, I retired and traveled slowly around the world. I attended the United Nations Decade of Women forums in Copenhagen, Denmark (1980) and Nairobi, Kenya (1985) - an inspiring experience.
I am now a resident at Vista del Monte Continuing Care Retirement Community that has established itself as a model for senior retirement services which includes affordable coordinated services from retirement to after death. It is a challenge, but such coordination is badly needed by us older folk and our families."
Helen was raised in the Congregational Church, but later joined the Episcopal Church under whose influence she raised her family. In later years, she joined the Unitarian Universalist Society of Santa Barbara.
Helen is predeceased by her husband Harland Frederick, and her two brothers Samuel G. and A. Dudley Johnson, and is survived by her sister, Kay Marsh of Keene Valley, NY, and her four children: Allen H (Judy) of Reno, NV, John H. (Susan) of San Francisco, CA, Ann H. Lewis (Ron) of Colchester, VT, and Jane W. of Santa Barbara, CA, and by her six grandchildren and three great grandsons.
Helen loved travel. It was her lifelong passion that became a reality in her retirement years. Her love for community and the United Nations as the hope for a world community never left her. To best honor Helen's memory, all are encouraged to support her beloved charity, UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund).
Arrangements entrusted to McDermott-Crockett Mortuary