Born at Women’sMedicalCollegeinPhiladelphia, Helen was the daughter of Charles and Clara H. Polk and grew up in the family home inMerchantville,N.J.After attending local schools andSusquehannaUniversity, she went to work at the N.W. Ayer advertising agency, where she met Charles J. Peitz Jr. They were married in 1951 and moved to Haddonfield in 1954.
While raising five children, Helen devoted herself to causes that included the Visiting Nurse, the Girl Scouts and the local Republican Party. Into her late 70s, when she became sick, she volunteered unfailingly with an Alzheimer’s group, sitting with patients so their families could catch a break. She volunteered to help run a Girl Scout troop in her 60s because she thought it important that girls learn the independence that Scouting could give.
Catholicism also became central to her life, though only gradually. Brought up in the Quaker and Presbyterian traditions, Helen had agreed to raise her children in her husband’s faith when they married, but she herself didn’t convert until a quarter century later. And her interest in the Church was first spurred by pride inPhiladelphia, through the canonization efforts for St. John Neumann. She worked tirelessly on that cause over the years, inspired by his life but also proud that the immigrant bishop had done his work in a city founded by Quakers arriving on a boat named Welcome.
In her later years, Helen found joy in her grandchildren, in her fellow daily communicants at Christ the KingChurch, and in the other plot holders at Haddonfield’s Crows Woods community gardens. A typical day began with Mass with friends, shifted to care of her grandchildren, and ended with an hour or two of quiet, tending her vegetables at Crows Woods. On one of her last visits to Crows Woods, in a wheelchair as she surveyed the gardens while children played soccer nearby, she said, “This is living.”
Helen was predeceased by her husband, her daughter Susan, and her sister Jean (Joseph) Holman. She is survived by her children Clara Notredame, Charles, Anne (Nelson) Remetz, Mary (Kevin) Kelly and H. Judith (Sukumar) Patel. She is also survived by her sisterElizabeth(E. Vernon) Soderland; by her grandchildren Julia and Stephen Kelly, Elizabeth and Meera Patel, and Madeline and Nelson Remetz; and by numerous nieces and nephews, whose varied callings always delighted her. She is also survived by five of six friends whom she met in kindergarten.
The family will receive visitors on Friday, Oct. 11, starting at 7 p.m.at the HINSKI-TOMLINSON FUNERAL HOME 81 .Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, NJ. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday at10 a.m.at Christ the King Church,Windsor Avenue and Wood Lane, Haddonfield, NJ. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Christ the King Church.