Saint Helen

by John C. Westervelt

Helen and Bob Frymire have attended the Joy Sunday school class at Asbury with me for over thirty years. Helen started teaching in the Asbury preschool soon after the program began.

Noticing that Helen always seemed so cheerful on rainy days, I once asked her why. She explained, "When I was growing up in West Texas, I remember visiting my grandfather in northern Louisiana and admiring the tall pine trees and green landscape." The harsh weather of West Texas only served to toughen Helen and her siblings who have all enjoyed successful professional careers.

Bob Frymire graduated from Oklahoma University in engineering and took a sales job with an oilfield tank company in Odessa, Texas. His territory included Sterling City, which is eighty miles east of Odessa. The most exciting place in Sterling City was an unnamed café. It was here that Bob met a pretty young schoolteacher who had recently graduated from Texas Tech.

As a tough West Texan, Helen could handle anything including regular teasing by her husband and three sons.

Helen was among those in the first group from Asbury who were sent to Madison, Wisconsin to be trained to teach Bethel Bible Study. For nine years Helen has been a volunteer with Destination Discovery, where she tutors children from low-income housing complexes.

When I retired five years ago, I asked if I could volunteer in Helenís preschool class for three-year-olds at Asbury on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Helen welcomed me. This May, Helen decided to retire as a regular teacher after twenty-nine years of service.

On a Thursday afternoon of the last day of school, Helen called to tell me that a three-year-old had left a gift with her for me, so I went by her house to pick it up. On the previous Saturday, Joanne Miller and Susan Rizzotti, the preschool leaders, had arranged a retirement party in Asburyís parlor. Old friends from the beginning of preschool came. Little children brought their mommies and daddies with them to say goodbye to their beloved teacher.

Amongst the cards and gifts was a generous financial contribution from the preschool organization to plant trees in Helenís honor in the childrenís outdoor play area of the new Asbury. How appropriate for one who loved children and trees so much. I would have thought Helen would have been happy, but instead she cried.

As I stood on Helenís driveway visiting with her and Bob, she began to tell me how touched she was with the outpouring of love from those who seemed to care that she had been a teacher most of her life.

Bob, being the good husband that he is, looked at me and said, "Donít you think we should apply for sainthood for Helen?" As we spoke, the Methodist General Conference was completing their final week of deliberations. Bob and I reasoned that we were too late to get Methodist approval, so as a committee of two we declared her "Saint Helen."

Helen stood smiling for a while, accepting our verbal taunts before saying, "Put it to rest, Bob, if you want any supper at this house tonight." Sometimes women just donít understand their men. Bobís teasing words are the only way he knows to express his love for Helen, which is infinitely more than the love he had for the pretty young girl in the unnamed café in Sterling City.

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