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Helen Margaret Jean (nee Mackenzie) Richards – Obituary

By  | August 7, 2018 | Filed under: Elkins Funeral Home, Obituaries

Helen Margaret Jean (nee Mackenzie) Richards passed away peacefully on August 6th.


Helen was born at 25 Princes Street, Auckland, New Zealand on 20th 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 Honor for swimming in 2015.


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 honored. 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 Arts Center Holiday lunches. Helen was a past 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 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), Kiri Richards (Wellington, NZ), and great-grandson Isaac Lovell (Longmont CO).


The family wishes to thank sincerely Dr. William Hobbs, Dr. Edsel Holden, Molly Jones, and Rev. Dr. Callie Plunket-Brewton for their thoughtful care and support.  In addition, thanks to the ECM staff who cared so devotedly and professionally for Helen as she made her last journey.


In lieu of flowers, consider supporting the St. Francis Fund (Trinity Episcopal Church, Florence, AL) or Hospice of the Shoals.


A Memorial Service will be held at 4 pm Friday August 10th at Trinity Episcopal Church followed by a reception in the Mullen Parish Hall.

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