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Helen Baldwin passed away July 30 surrounded by family, after struggling courageously for nearly a year to recover from a stroke. It was her 68th wedding anniversary.
Christened Eleni Nikolas Coothoorides, Helen was born to Greek immigrants Nikolas and Cassandra Coothoorides in Portland. The second of three sisters, she grew up in the Laurelhurst neighborhood, attending Laurelhurst Elementary and graduating early from Grant High, even though she spoke no English when she started school.
Helen competed in tennis and field hockey, and marched in the Rose Parade with a drum and bugle corps. She also attended Greek school at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and was literate in Greek as well as English.
Helen entered the University of Oregon (U of O) in 1940, and completed two and a half years there before leaving the university to work as a core maker at ESCO in Portland throughout World War II. While she was at the U of O, her roommate and future sister-in-law introduced her to Lee Baldwin. They corresponded throughout the war while Lee served in the army in Europe and married July 30, 1945, while Lee was home on leave between V-E Day and V-J Day.
After the war ended, Lee and Helen settled in Salem while Lee earned a B.A. in history from Willamette. The two oldest of their five children were born in Salem. In 1950, they moved to Crane, where Lee taught and Helen cared for her family, the first year in a house with no electricity and a well to pump for water. It was a long way from the big house in Laurelhurst, but Helen’s beloved older sister was living with her family on a nearby cattle ranch. Helen made lifetime friends in Crane.
In 1953, Helen and Lee moved to Burns, where their other three children were born. Helen was an excellent cook, homemaker and seamstress, and a full-time mom. She volunteered as a room mother, Cub Scout leader and 4-H leader. She taught all of her children to read before they started school. Friends were always welcome in the Baldwin home. Tireless, devoted and able to stretch a dollar, Helen made the years in Harney County happy for all.
In 1966, Helen and Lee moved to Grants Pass where Helen fulfilled her dream of finishing college. She worked in the kitchen at Mariola Nursing Home to earn her tuition while she and Lee were helping their two oldest pay for their university studies. Although she still had three children at home and a 90 mile a day commute to Ashland, Helen was always on the dean’s list. She earned her B.A. in elementary education in 1971, and began teaching 2nd and 3rd grade at Jerome Prairie Elementary. She retired in 1982.
Helen continued her devotion to family, caring for grandchildren and hosting family holidays. Her pastries and candy were highlights; her baklava is legendary. She gardened, preserved food and sewed for her grandchildren. She stayed abreast of local, state and national politics, and voted in every election. She and Lee traveled throughout the U.S. and to Europe. Helen and Lee were active in the Grants Pass Lions Club, and for years manned the food booth at the Josephine County Fair, cooking up thousands of Lion burgers. A life-long athlete, she was a familiar face at both the YMCA and Club Northwest, and remained fit until her stroke.
Helen was preceded in death by her husband, Lee; and her sisters, Frances Tice and Chrys Lovett.
She is survived by her five children and their spouses, Nikki Squire (Dell), Marc Baldwin (Susan), Lee E. (Ernie) Baldwin (Susie), Dianne Sanders (Mike), and Lisa Baldwin (Jack Christman); seven grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
At Helen’s request, there will be no funeral. In lieu of flowers, those who wish to may donate to the Oregon Food Bank or Coalition for Kids.
Please sign the family guest book at www.since1928hull.com.