1913 - 2008
Longtime Alaskan Helen Dorthea French, age 94, passed away at the Pioneers Home in Fairbanks on Feb. 21, 2008. She was born Sept. 4, 1913, in Eagle Rock, Mo., to Clarence H. and Stella (Raines) Farwell, the oldest of four siblings who preceded her in death.
After graduating from high school, Helen attended Hastings College in Nebraska, and then returned home to Missouri until her natural curiosity to always see over the next hill and around the corner, led her to leave home again and with very limited funds, she hitchhiked west to Tacoma, Wash. This was an experience that had a profound effect on her ability to see the good in people and established a pay it forward attitude that served her well throughout her life.
It was in Tacoma that she met the love of her life, John Sherman French, who she shared her life, love and family with until his death in 1997.
In February 1949, Helen, John and their children, Roger and Carolyn, moved to Sitka. John, a master plumber and pipefitter, worked on the construction of Mount Edgecumbe Hospital. Smitten with the beauty of Alaska, they moved to Ketchikan and then Juneau, choosing to settle in Anchorage in 1951. Together, they built their home with the panoramic view of the Chugach Mountains -- a home they lived, loved and laughed in until John's death.
Their love of Alaska and the outdoors was evident in the beautiful log cabin they owned in the Sheep Creek area off the Parks Highway. The cabin was where their grandsons learned to fish and hunt and was a common stop for friends and family driving the Parks between Fairbanks and Anchorage -- visitors never left without a bounty of vegetables from their impressive garden. Many a first fish and first moose were hunted from the area surrounding their cabin -- including Helen's last moose, which she successfully hunted alone at the age of 80.
Although she had a profound love of Alaska her heart and body would return many times to her birthplace and the friends and relatives she loved so dearly. A portion of this love was manifested in her desire to be one of the sponsors to move the beloved, by many, Horner School House to The College of the Ozarks campus to maintain the structure in perpetually. Throughout the years she was one of the many sponsors to the collage and considered it her way of returning the gift the Ozarks had bestowed upon her.
A woman of many gifts and talents, Helen's wisdom, loving smile and spiritual guidance will be terribly missed by many; her son Roger French of Lynden, WA.; daughter, Carolyn Olson of Fairbanks; grandchildren, Dale (Heather) Carlson, Gene (Darlene) Carlson, Kelly (David) Atlee and Michael (Susan) French. In addition are several great-grandchildren and special friends and family including friends of Rozanne S. and her Course in Miracles friendships.
This spring Helen's ashes will join John's amidst the willows and the land, near their cabin.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to any organization that searches for the cure of Alzheimer's and its related diseases. Paid