In Memoriam

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Helen Wheeler Hastay ’39

A picture of Helen Wheeler Hastay

Helen Wheeler Hastay ’39, February 1, 2009, at Pullman Regional Hospital in Pullman, Washington, following a brief illness. Helen was inspired to enroll at Reed after spending some time in a residence hall with her sister, Margaret Jean Wheeler ’26, and viewing little butter dishes in commons, she told Nancy Stewart Green ’51 in an oral history interview in 2001. The youngest of four children that included brothers George Wheeler ’29 and Donald N. Wheeler ’35, Helen grew up in White Bluffs, Washington, where her parents had a fruit orchard. Intellectually precocious throughout her public school years, she entered Reed at 16. Reed history professor Reginald Arragon [1923–62; 1970–74] and his family provided room and board for Helen in their home in exchange for cooking and dishwashing duties. In her first-year contemporary society class, she met Millard W. Hastay ’41; they married in 1937. Millard worked for the highway department, while Helen completed a BA from Reed in general literature. She then taught high school English in Halfway, Oregon (1939–41), while Millard completed his BA. They lived in Palo Alto, California, for three years, where she was a telephone exchange operator, while Millard did graduate studies at Stanford. For the next 14 years, they lived in New York City; Millard earned a PhD at Columbia University and worked at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Helen cared for their two sons. Their next move took them to Pullman, where Helen resumed her teaching (1964–77). To certify for teaching in Washington, she took a fifth year of college work that included “a totally new, totally engrossing experience”: studio art. “I had always imagined art to be something beyond me. When I approached it without fear of grades or failing, it opened a new world—as snorkeling did much later, when for the first time, on Maui, I saw the glory of the undersea world.” Dancing had been one of the highlights of Helen's life at Reed, and she and Millard enjoyed square and round dancing into their late 70s. In 1981, they moved to Grapeview, Washington, and in 2006, returned to Pullman. Survivors include Millard, and the couple's sons and four granddaughters.

Appeared in Reed magazine: August 2009

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