Brattleboro - Helen P. Secrest, 87, died peacefully on August 26, 2018 in Brattleboro, Vermont, with her children at her bedside. She was kind, generous, accomplished, and well-loved.
Helen was born Helen Pietrowski, growing up with German immigrant parents in Moreland Hills, an eastern suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from Orange High School in 1949 as the valedictorian of her class, she went on to receive a diploma in nursing from St. Luke’s Hospital in Cleveland. She later received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
Helen worked as a pediatric nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital, then moved to Boston and worked at Children’s Medical Center. She later worked at what was then the Boston Lying-In Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s) for the National Institute of Health-sponsored Collaborative Perinatal Research Project, which eventually brought her to the research study’s office in the Washington, D.C. area.
From 1965 until his death in 1992, she was married to David W. Secrest, journalist and public affairs consultant, with whom she had two children, Jonathan and Amy. After raising them and her two older step-children, Martin and Cary, Helen went back to nursing research at Westat, Inc., Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She retired at age 73, and in 2016 moved to Brattleboro, Vermont to be near her son’s family.
Helen was actively involved in PTA board and volunteer work at her children’s schools, and as an elected official in local government. She was proud to be a charter member, board member, and volunteer of the Chevy Chase Historical Society for many years.
She is survived by her son, Jonathan Secrest and his wife Kerry, of Brattleboro, Vermont and children, Alina and Aleksa, and by her daughter, Amy Secrest Cropp, and her husband Brian, of Bethesda, Maryland and children, Robert and George. She is also survived by her three stepchildren: Cary Secrest and his wife Jennifer, of Silver Spring, Maryland, and sons Nathan and Daniel; Martin Secrest and his wife Moira, of Arlington, Virginia, and children, Declan and Anna; and Gillian Clark and her husband David, of Gilbert, Arizona, and children, David, Jr. and Lauren.
A small gathering of family and friends will be held in the fall in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Chevy Chase Historical Society, or to Thompson House, of Brattleboro, Vermont.