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Helen Margaret Jean (Mackenzie) RICHARDS

Helen Margaret Jean (Mackenzie) RICHARDS Notice
RICHARDS, Helen Margaret Jean (nee Mackenzie). Passed away peacefully on August 6, 2018. Helen was born at 25 Princes Street, Auckland, New Zealand on 20 April 1930 to Dr. Bruce and Mrs Elyn Mackenzie. She was educated at St Cuthbert's College, the University of Auckland, and the Pathology Department of Auckland Public Hospital where she became a certified bacteriologist. At St Cuthbert's College, Helen excelled in sports representing the college in tennis, field hockey and swimming. In 1949 she became the New Zealand champion in the 220 and 440 yard freestyle event leading to her selection for the 1950 New Zealand British Empire Games team and to her nomination to the 1952 New Zealand Olympic team. Helen was inducted into St Cuthbert's College Wall of Honour for swimming in 2015. Helen also swam and played field hockey for the University of Auckland and captained those teams. For her achievements in the pool and on the field (besides losing 4 teeth), she was awarded University Blues. In 1954 she married Dr. Nolan E. Richards at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Auckland, NZ. In 1955, following Nolan to Philadelphia, she worked in the Pathology Department of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital where she participated in innovative research into the identification and extraction of blood group compounds from plants. After a time in London where her husband was a Fellow at Imperial College, Helen came to Florence, Alabama in 1957 where she became the first bacteriologist for Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. Helen was very community-minded. She was heavily involved in fostering the American Field Service student exchange program, International Hospitality (organizing host families for entertaining overseas technologists visiting TVA), TOUCH (a cancer sensitivity group), and Hospice of the Shoals. She was recognized for these contributions by being selected as the Muscle Shoals Citizen of the Year in 1974, the first woman to be so honoured. She received several other awards for her community work in the Shoals area: the Golden Deeds Award in 1978 and the Diana Award in 1980. For several years, Helen was part of the team that staged the Kennedy-Douglas Art Center Holiday lunches. Helen was a member of the Florence Pilot Club International embracing public service and forming many lifelong friendships. Lately, Helen enjoyed UNA's Learning in Retirement. Helen also helped her husband establish the Muscle Shoals Sailing Club in 1961. She crewed for Nolan for many years as they raced their Day Sailer "Hinemoa" in local, regional and national regattas and she achieved several successes as a skipper also. Within the Florence School system, Helen taught English as a second language to immigrants mainly from Central America and Southeast Asia. As part of her tutelage, Helen endeavored to acquaint the newcomers about the way of life here and how to function in Florence. Helen was a courageous cancer survivor, having first developed breast cancer in 1973 and then overcoming subsequent recurrences. Helen was an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church. She is survived by husband of 64 years, Dr. Nolan E Richards, son Dr. Bruce Richards (Dr. Sherrie Richards), Nashville TN, daughter Robin Richards (Herndon VA), granddaughter Kim Robertson (Longmont CO) and great- grandson Isaac Lovell (Longmont CO), and granddaughter Kiri Richards (Wellington, NZ). Family members that Helen loved and leaves in New Zealand include sister-in-law Elizabeth Mackenzie, nephews James (Cynthia) Mackenzie, Peter (Robin) Bolam, nieces Patricia (Howard) Scott, Kirsty Mullany, Denise Richards, and in Australia, niece Tanya Richards and in Germany, nephew, Bryce (Andrea) Richards.
Published in The New Zealand Herald on Aug. 11, 2018
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