‘Helen the hugger’ makes days better

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 14, 2015

There is a very special person among the members of First United Methodist Church of Andalusia. (Some church members refer to her as the hugger.) She loves everyone at church and everyone loves this delightful person, Helen Hess. On Thurs., Feb. 26, friends and family will gather at the church for a special event—Helen’s 100th birthday celebration.

It is hard to imagine as you speak with Helen that she was born in 1915. She is not one to cling to the “old ways.” She speaks often to her 97-year-old sister by computer that allows them to see each other as they chat. She remembers her parents taking the family to town every Saturday in a wagon. Now, she said, people have gone to outer space. She recalls hand-cranked telephones and hopping out of stalled T-Model cars to crank them to get them started again. With a twinkle in her eyes, she told me her daddy taught her sister how to drive his new car. Chuckling, she added that he taught her everything except how to stop the vehicle.

I sometimes think of Helen in the way a certain battery company advertises its product: she just keeps on going. On Sunday mornings, she faithfully occupies her seat in the Ethel Chapman Sunday School Class. She then takes her place in a pew during the morning worship service.

She is back at church on Wednesday noon for the Brown Bag Bible Study. She participates in the Prayer Group meeting that follows. She attends special Lenten and Advent services. She was among the first members of the Prayer Shawl ministry, joining a group of women who pray over and knit shawls on Monday mornings. She has knitted approximately 50 beautiful sweaters for newborns.

Helen and her daughter, Vicki, have graciously invited numerous friends without local family members to share Thanksgiving and Christmas meals with them at their home.

Helen married Glenn Hess on Sept. 30, 1933. Late that night, they awakened a college friend’s father who was a minister to ask him to perform the ceremony. Glenn served in the military during World War II and retired as a lieutenant colonel with an impressive military record. They were the first family deployed to Stuttgart, Germany, after the war. They stayed in the officer’s mess until a house was available. She had to order almost everything they needed from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs.

The couple had two sons and two daughters. Glenn died in 1994. She has two surviving children. A number of her 10 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren are coming for her birthday, including some who have had reservations at local motels since November for the big celebration.

I think her minister, Rev. Tim Trent, summed up best how most feel about Helen, our hugger: “Any day is a better day when you have been around Helen. She is a remarkable lady with a remarkable attitude and a contagious spirit.” Happy Birthday, Helen.