Helen Joy Reeves was the youngest of four children of Troy Lee Reeves and Annabelle (Lindsay) Reeves. She was born in Wellington, Texas into a family who, according to her oldest brother Robert (Bob), were migrant workers during the Great Depression, following crops looking for work. They traveled from Texas, to Colorado to Arizona to New Mexico to Washington and to Oregon. The family landed in Salem, Oregon for a long enough period of time for Bob to graduate from South Salem High School. Following Bob’s departure from the family to join the US Navy during the Korean War, the family relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Helen attended Highland High School. In 1953 her parent’s marriage failed and Annabelle and Helen moved to Portland, Oregon, and graduated from Washington High School.
In 1956 Helen met her future husband, Gerald Herman Williams, [Sr.,] (Gerry) on a Rose City bus headed downtown and on November 10, 1956 they were married. Gerald and Helen lived for a short time with her mother in Southeast Portland until they could afford to purchase a house of their own in, what is now called, the Johns Landing part of Southwest Portland.
On June 9, 1957 they welcomed the first of three children, Kathryn Joy Williams, followed in October 7, 1958 with Gerald Herman Williams, Jr., and finally Michael Anthony Williams on April 28, 1963. Gerald, Sr., worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers as a draftsman when the couple met, but by 1968 he had become a licensed professional Architect, in Oregon. His career as an architect began with Stevens Thompson & Runyon, which he left to become a partner at Jensen Kraus & Schoenleber.
Helen was mostly a homemaker in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s while the two oldest of her children were in school at Terwilliger Grade School. She served on the Terwilliger PTA and was president for at least two terms. She entered the workforce as a secretary for State Farm Insurance company. In the early 1970’s she first volunteered then was hired by the Neighborhood House, in the Lair Hill area of Southwest Portland, eventually becoming Executive Director. After writing a lot of grant proposals and acquiring new programs which came with new sources of funding, Helen secured a new home for the agency in Multnomah Village, where it remains to this day. Neighborhood House grew rapidly from a staff of fewer than a half dozen to twenty or more, with dozens of volunteers.
Helen and Gerry were avid golfers and scuba divers and loved most diving off Lani with friends from Extended Horizons. They played golf weekly at local area golf courses.
On May 8, 1993, tragedy stuck when Helen’s only daughter, Kathryn, unexpectedly died following back surgery. It occurred one month before what would have been her thirty sixth birthday. It was a very dark time for the entire family.
After Gerry, Sr. was made partner with the architecture firm, which became JKS, Inc., then Sienna Architecture, Helen resigned from Neighborhood House to support her husband, travel and plan for retirement. They traveled to Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, France, and Spain, and of course, they spent two weeks a year on Maui, Hawaii. They also went on cruises to Alaska and Mexico.
After her husband’s death in 1998, she remained active in the community, serving on the Multnomah County Citizens review board for the budget. She was an active member of her church, the Hall Street Baptist Church, singing in the choir and continued to travel. She traveled with the Philadelphians, a group of retired seniors. They made annual trips to Leavenworth, Washington, and traveled to Central America to view ancient ruins and enjoy the food and culture.
In 2010 Helen relocated to a senior apartment complex on SW Durham Road in Tigard. Close to her Church and where her son Michael lived.
In 2014, around Thanksgiving, Helen suffered a fall and ultimately relocated to a rehabilitation center named Avamere, located on Pacific Highway. Her health continued to decline and in November 2017, she entered the McLoughlin Place memory care unit, where she passed away on Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 6:15 PM.
Helen Joy Williams was a lot of things to a lot of people. Daughter, Sister, Wife; Mother, and Grandmother. She was an active member of her Church, and her community. She is survived by her sons, Gerry (Caroline Reay), and Michael (Hiromi), and her three grandchildren: Gwyneth Helen Williams, Gillian Reay Williams, and Nina T. Williams.
Helen will be laid to rest at the Riverview Abbey beside her husband and in the same area where her mother Anna Belle Lindsey Reeves and daughter Kathryn Joy Williams are entombed. Viewing for family members will be Thursday May 28th and viewing for others will be Friday May 29th, from noon to 4:00 PM. Riverview Abbey is located at: 0319 SW Taylors Ferry Rd, Portland, OR 97219. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, only one family group can be allowed in the viewing area at a time. Mourners can wait in the Abbey’s chapel until the viewing area is open.
Remembrances can be made in Helen’s name to Neighborhood House.
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