In Memoriam

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In Memoriam Archive

Helen Perkins ’55

Helen died peacefully at home surrounded by her family and her favorite dog, Molly. Born in Chico, California, she attended Reed in 1953–55. She began her teaching career by traveling to Europe, stopping in Germany, where she taught for two years. Returning from Germany, she detoured to Alaska and met Jim Messick, literally over a smoking gun barrel in his bedroom following an ice-skating party. They became engaged after dating for two weeks, and were married for 38 years.

Helen used her passion for literacy to teach reading and writing, and her students loved her creative approaches. In 1972, she became the full-time mother of two children, Mike and Jennifer, a part-time Avon lady, and—in the 1980s—the statewide distributor for Bosch Kitchen Machines, maintaining more than 100 authorized dealers and demonstrators. Celebrated as the “Bread Lady,” she baked loaves of bread by the hundreds to raise funds for school trips and taught bread making at community schools and the state fair. She also bestowed the gift of reading on many illiterate children and adults on her own and through the Anchorage Literacy Project.

After retiring, she and Jim operated a bed and breakfast on Lake Lucille for 13 years. She enjoyed being a member of the Rose and Garden Club and her church, Wasilla Lake Church of the Nazarene. She is survived by her son, Mike Messick (Heather); and grandsons Ethan, Erek, Aedan, and Adam Messick; her daughter, Jennifer Messick Gilmour (Walt); and grandson, Luke Gilmour; and her sister, Jean Nilson (Gary).

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2016

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