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Helen A. Sawyer died Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012, at Trinity Health Care in Columbus after an extended illness.
She began her earthly journey as Helen Virginia Amick in Heavener, Okla., on Aug. 2, 1922, and brought joy to her parents Harry and Donna Williams Amick.
Funeral services will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, at Welch Funeral Home Chapel in Starkville. Rev. Sandra DePriest will officiate and be assisted by Rev. Susie Jones.
A one hour visitation precedes the service and will be followed by internment in Memorial Gardens in Starkville.
As a child and through her young adult years, Helen enjoyed the small town atmosphere of Heavener, and her life was enriched by the influence of the railroad on her family through her fatherâ€™s employment. She attended school in Heavener and was a graduate of Heavener High School in the class of 1940. In pursuit of advanced learning, she attended the University of Oklahoma and graduated in 1944 with a degree in home economics. Helen enjoyed extensive train travel that led her to exciting cities such as Kansas City, New Orleans and St. Louis. This travel led to her first employment after college in Kansas City where she worked in fashion mercantile.
Helenâ€™s desire to teach led her away from the big city atmosphere of Kansas City and back to the quieter environment of Norman, Okla., where she worked as a graduate assistant while completing her masterâ€™s degree in home economics, which was awarded in 1948. Helen then accepted employment as an instructor in home economics at Mississippi State College for Women, now MUW, in Columbus.
Following a three-year tenure there, she became head of the home economics department at Lambuth College in Jackson, Tenn.
During her time at Lambuth in Jackson, Helen met future husband, Ranville T. (Tom) Sawyer, a native of Corinth and a graduate of Lambuth College who was then serving on the faculty of Mississippi State College, now MSU, in Starkville. Following their courtship, they were married in Jackson, Tenn., on Dec. 20, 1953.
Helen taught home economics at MSU for a short while before leaving the role of teacher to assume a new role of mother to two daughters, Donna and Sandra.
Active in local garden and homemakers clubs as well as First United Methodist Church, Helen was soon called upon to serve in various leadership capacities and to serve as teacher for her Sunday School class. Helen enjoyed gardening, entertaining and travel. She maintained a strong interest in music and theatre and anything connected to her home state of Oklahoma. Helen had the distinction of knowing the lyrics to a wide variety of Broadway musicals, popular tunes and church hymns.
Helen often served as hostess for Senator John C. Stennis when he visited Starkville. He, in turn, arranged for Helen to visit the U. S. Capitol and the White House while her husband was in Washington, D.C. on business. One particular adventure placed her on the front row of the visitors gallery during the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s. Later, in 1981, she served as a Miss. representative for the White House Conference on Aging in Washington, D.C.
Because husband Tomâ€™s responsibilities as MSU tennis coach put Helen in close contact with young college students â€” international and domestic â€” she became known for her caring and gracious manner in assisting students and college friends as she opened her home to students who missed the comfort and safety of their own homes during the time they were separated from their families. Her deeds of kindness, sown broadly, have resulted in tennis players scattered here and abroad honoring the passing of her husband, coach Sawyer, by continuing to maintain contact with Helen through the years.
Helen traveled extensively with her husband in the 1950s and â€™60s in setting up driver education training classes for American Automobile Association and on various military bases in the U. S. and abroad. Together as a team, they initiated driver training in many locations and traveled widely in efforts to ensure driver safety and bring a sense of Southern charm and graciousness along for the ride. Helen was recognized in â€śDixie Doodlingsâ€ť in the Memphis Commercial Appeal as the only woman active in driver education and safety consultation in the Midsouth in 1956.
In recent years, Helen traveled to Europe, Mexico, Canada and most of the United
States. Enthralled by cruise ships such as the QE2 and Cunard Lines, she maintained her small town perspective when she participated in the tours offered by Starkville Buses. She often reminisced about the wonderful adventures of traveling with John Robert Arnold and said, â€śWe sang our way across the country.â€ť
Helen moved to Trinity Place Retirement Community in Columbus in 2001 where she took an active part in the routines and activities of daily life there. She renewed her faith commitment in the Episcopal Church as a young adult by actively committing herself to a new church family as a member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.
Helen is survived by daughters Donna Moore and Sandra Peacock; grandson Andy McClelland; granddaughter Kimberly Carpenter; and three great-grandchildren. She also leaves special friends Ernie George, Alice and Gerald Scallions and Charles Weatherly as well as a host of friends and acquaintances to cherish her memory.
Pallbearers will be former tennis Players and tennis friends.
Honorary pallbearers will be Prentiss Gordon Sr., the Staff of Trinity Place Health Care and members of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
Memorials in memory of Helen may be made to The Helen A. Sawyer Scholarship Fund in Home Economics at Mississippi State University, Trinity Place Health Care in Columbus or to the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbus.
Visit http://www.welchfuneralhomes.com to sign the online guest register.