by Elizabeth Stephens
Helen’s Unexpected Death in the City of Hope
As much love as there was, it did not make up for Helen’s health which was quite fragile. I was told my mother was very sickly. In fact according to the family, they did not expect her to come back from her around the world trip. I was amazed when I heard this comment many years later.
In December of 1954, when I was two years old my mother was admitted into the City of Hope in Duarte, California to have an operation. A note from a relative read:
Even though I cannot visit you now-will surely do so when you get home.
Aren’t you lucky to be in such a wonderful place?
I know dear because Arthur and I used to visit out there quite frequently.
Lots of love,
Although the operation was a success, Helen ended up dying from complications at the young age of 33 years. Back then this kind of outcome seemed to happen with frequency, possibly pneumonia.
The following note was from Helen to David, the last note she would write from the hospital.
It was so nice getting your dear letter. I do miss you so, and it’s nice to know you miss me too. These last few days before the operation are dragging by so slowly—I am so anxious for Friday to come. They moved me again—2 doors from where I was—in with another girl, but she went home this morning, and this afternoon a new one came in. I don’t think I’ll be in here when I come down from the operating room—I think they put people in single rooms when they bring them down from surgery. I hope I sleep for a couple of days after it, so by the time I wake up I won’t be hurting too much.
Cyril and Joe and Ronnie came to see me Sunday just about 10 minutes after you and the kids left. They were so sorry they missed you. They said I should tell you to drive out to Ontario from here, after you visit. I told them you would like to do that.They said maybe they would come in Wednesday to see me, and if they do, I’ll ask them if they are going to be home Sunday and maybe you and the kids would like to go out there. Joe’s mother broke her leg last Thursday and is in the Kaiser hospital in Hollywood, so they might come to L.A. to see her. If not, I’m sure they would like to have you come down.
No honey, we didn’t pay the October phone bill. And you better send in your union dues, with your little union card. I used the money I had to pay our Ross-Loos dues—I gave it to A. Belle the last time she was out and she sent the check in.
I wonder if you have some money for the house payment—you can wait two more Fridays—this coming Friday & the next. (It’s due on the first of December, but it’s ok if we get it in before the 15th.) (It’s $81.15).
What you wrote about the kids praying was so sweet. Did you teach them? Such sweethearts—all 3 of you.
I’m sending the insurance check in to Ross Loss for your calcium test and office visits. I just got a message that you called and said you would be here Friday. I don’t think you need to—I’ll probably be up in surgery for hours—the girl that left here today said she was up there 6 hours and then of course I’ll be asleep when I come down.
If you think you’ll feel better being here, then do come; but remember there won’t be anything to do for hour after hour, and I’m afraid the waiting will be nerve-wracking. However if you do think you would rather be here, that’s ok with me, dear.
I guess I’ll go to sleep and dream (I hope) that you’ve won a couple of those card games.
All my love to you and Adri & Elizabeth,
Don’t forget the car insurance Saturday.
She was an accountant by profession and was probably always looking after the bills.
Her death left David, an immigrant dad to raise two little girls alone. David was deeply grieved and we were told he was brokenhearted. My mother’s three older great aunts stepped in and took care of us until David could get himself together while he started working as a general contractor in the construction field. Typically David would accept a job then figure out how to accomplish the work. He did great carpentry work and had many lifelong customers because of his carpentry skills.
Three Concerned Aunts Raise Two Young Nieces in Beverly Hills According to Dr. Spock
One of my great aunts was married and the other two remained single. They had been well known lawyers in Beverly Hills and were somewhat wealthy, but never had children of their own. All their parenting education came out of a Dr. Spock book. Whenever we, my sister and I, got mad or upset, the aunts would say, “get the book out.’ I still have written reports about my daily activities in nursery school. Apparently, I did not like peas. Even though my sister and I were without a mother we were well taken care of as the family came around to fill the void.
xxx (David with Adri & Elizabeth) We knew that we were loved and our daddy loved us a great deal. I am told that we frequently visited our grandparents as they lived next door.
I also had a pet duck named Inky.