Helen Boyce Sweeters, Advocate for Children with Special Needs
Helen was born in 1922, the youngest of four siblings. She lived her earliest years in New York City before moving to Scarsdale, N.Y., a place of great memories for her. She graduated from Catholic schools, including the Ursuline School and the College of New Rochelle. In her senior year of college, at the height of WWII, she met U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Wilber A. Sweeters (known as Jess) on a blind date for her prom at the Waldorf Astoria, and it was love at first sight. Helen used her college sciences as a N.Y.C. working girl in a hospital laboratory until she and Jess married and traveled cross country to Jess’ home state of California, where Helen thereafter devoted her life to her family which included five children.
The couple’s eldest child, Henry, was born with Down Syndrome, which triggered Helen’s natural leadership talents, advocacy, and compassion for those in need and with special needs. She used her positive energy and organizational skills as a supporter of the fledgling school at Pacific Palisades’ Presbyterian Church which served special needs youth when there was no other place for them to create, explore, and grow. Helen was later involved with the Exceptional Children’s Foundation from its early years, supporting programs to enhance and bring joy to the lives of those with special needs. She was a founding member of Corpus Christi Catholic Church, and was a frequent volunteer at the church and school attended by her other four children. Helen was also a talented gardener, loved museums and the visual arts, and used her own special flair to create a beautiful and original home. She loved to travel and loved the preliminary research of the sights and artworks she so anticipated. She read several newspapers a day, possessed a sharp wit, loved people and enjoyed zesty conversation with anyone she met. After 68 years in California – 64 of those in Pacific Palisades – Helen remained a proud and forever New Yorker who lived until the day she died at home on March 26, 2014, at age 91.
Helen will be deeply missed by her friends and family, including her loving husband and children, Henry (who predeceased her), Stephen (Susie Heeter), James (Marcia McCready), Julianne (Ed Carney), and Maryclaire (Mick Buchanan), and her grandchildren Noah and Nate Sweeters and Boyce and Finlay Buchanan, and also by family in N.Y., including her sister, Maryclaire Sherwin, and many nieces and nephews. Celebratory mass to be held at Corpus Christi Catholic Church on April 12 at 11a.m.