Monday, May 3, 2010
Helen Gerald: A treasure
Helen Gerald was a jewel. She was a treasure for the city of Amarillo for decades. She was remarkable woman had she never even picked up a violin, but that she did, only added to her giving spirit and an expression of her talent.
Helen died over the weekend, and services will likely be Friday. She was 91. I never knew her age. I had to ask once when I did a column on her in 2006. She politely declined to reveal, afraid the Amarillo Symphony might not look favorably on a member that old.
Helen was a member of the Symphony for 63 years. They didn't carry her. She was an integral part for more than six decades. And for about as long, she taught students in the Suzuki strings program at Amarillo College. Four years ago, at age 87, she was still teaching 20 students.
"She's a very fine musician. One thing that's kept Helen going all these years is her sheer love of music,'' said Beverly de la Bratonne, a symphony violinist, said in 2006. "She told me she'd rather play her instrument than eat. That's how much she loves music.''
The one thing she loved more than music was her family. Activity and accomplishments were a Gerald gene. Husband Tom just last year retired from his dental practice -- at age 96. Dr. Robert Gerald is an ophthalmologist, but is just as well known for his constant marathon training and quality runs even though he's just on the other side of 60.
Helen was a 1994 breast cancer survivor, enduring 26 radiation treatments at age 75. Late in life, she was still walking two miles a day and going to an aerobics cloass.
She knew heartbreak. Oldest daughter Nancy, a registered nurse, was part of an Amarillo group which died in a plane crash in Africa in 1987. Oldest son Tom, Jr., a veternarian, died in 2006 from a motorcycle.
"My motivation is just to keep on," Helen told me in 2006. "I don't want to die on the vine."
Through it all, Helen was relentlessly upbeat. Age was just some hidden number. She cared for so many people for so long, that's her legacy.
"She's risen above it all,'' said de la Bratonne. "She's an incredible woman.''
That she was.