Helen L. Thompson, a teacher and resident of
, died Nov. 6 of congestive heart failure at
. She was 85.
Mrs. Thompson was born Aug.
19, 1916, in
, to John and Clara Satterwhite. She grew up on a farm and liked to explore the
surrounding landscape with the family dog, Fritz.
Her childhood adventures
with Fritz were an early sign that Mrs. Thompson's travels would become more
extensive in young adulthood.
After attending college in
, Mrs. Thompson worked for International Harvester, the manufacturer of the
Scout line of recreational vehicles produced in the 1960s and '70s. Mrs.
Thompson also worked at the California Institute of Technology, where she became
accustomed to an academic environment.
"Helen was the family
intellectual and enjoyed working with all the bright people at Cal Tech "
said Mike Phillips, her nephew.
Working as an
administrative assistant at the institute may have been satisfying, but it was a
poor substitute for Mrs. Thompson's true love: teaching. From her early 20s on,
According to Mr. Phillips,
his aunt was the youngest teacher on the staff at a small
college where she was in the same age group as most of her students.
Mrs. Thompson married
Edward Thompson, a fellow Danvillian, in the early 1940s, but the couple
divorced in 1959.
In the early 1960s, Mrs.
Thompson moved to
, fulfilling a dream of living in
. She always had wanted to visit
for its history and culture, and her genealogical discovery that she was
related to Claude Monet, the French impressionist painter, increased her desire.
She stayed in
for two years before moving to
after President Charles de Gaulle's anti-American sentiments became widely
, Mrs. Thompson took a job teaching high-school-aged children of American
military families at Lakenheath Royal Air Force Base. On her own time, she would
take the students on field trips throughout
. She also encouraged them to meet and correspond with residents of local
In 1985, Mrs. Thompson
to retire in
, which had been suggested by Mr. Phillips for its proximity to
She actively volunteered at Lorien Nursing Home, where she would "pick out
a couple of seemingly neglected elderly people and sort of adopt them "
according to Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips also remembers
as a child visiting his aunt with his three cousins during summer vacation.
"She would take a week
of vacation ... and rent a cottage on the beach " he said. "We would
read, talk and explore the beach and wildlife. She always talked to us as
people, not little kids, [and] encouraged us to think and discuss things."
In addition to Mr.
Phillips, Mrs. Thompson is survived by her sister Fay Flack of
. She was predeceased by her brother, George Satterwhite, and sisters Mary
Cutshaw and Ferne Phillips.
Mrs. Thompson donated her
body to science through the Anatomy Board of Maryland.