Helen Rose Harwell
Published 3:32 pm Friday, July 7, 2023
Helen Rose Harwell passed away peacefully surrounded by family on July 1, 2023. She was born Nov. 8, 1928, to Walter and Bertha Gardner in Cooperstown, New York.
After graduating college in 1953, she moved to Tennessee to work at Kingswood School. It was there she met her beloved husband, Charlie (C.E. Harwell, “The Country Parson”), while serving as the guest pianist for the revival where he was preaching. He often joked that he got $7 and a wife that week. After a short engagement strengthened through written correspondence, they were married. She continued to play piano by his side every place he preached for the rest of their life together. Their shared devotion to one another provided a home for six children and lasted 53 years until Charlie passed away in 2007.
Helen was a gifted pianist and was frequently asked to provide music for church worship and other services. While she made their home and raised children, she shared her talent and love of music by teaching students in southeast Alabama for over 40 years. By recent count, five former students are currently serving as pianist at area churches.
Helen also loved to garden both flowers and foods. She enjoyed giving tours of new flowers and plants as well as updates on her figs and muscadine vines. Visiting family could always count on a big country breakfast each morning at her table. She brought Northern recipes for fried donuts and assorted other sweets to her home in the Deep South. No grandchild ever walked through her kitchen without sweet treats within their reach.
Helen was always delighted to hear from her loved ones by phone and would respond to their greeting with an enthusiastic, “Oh, Hi!” She wrote the best handwritten notes in classic penmanship on stationary adorned with small flowers. She had a gift for writing, able to acknowledge an important occasion or celebration in the recipient’s life, and always included a little detail about something on her daily calendar or a description of a new bird feeder and its feathered visitors outside her window.
Helen was known to her family, friends, and neighbors for her good nature and humor. She had a warm smile. She never took herself too seriously. She laughed loud at family stories and was the first to laugh at herself when she made a mistake. She lacked cynicism completely. She always believed the best about her children and grandchildren and took great joy in receiving updates on their plans and successes. She was also ready to offer loving solace in their mistakes and disappointments.
Her curiosity was inexhaustible even late in life. She was always teaching her dog a new trick, making plans for a new experience, or trying out at new hobby. The most notable arose from being given a painting class gift certificate by a grandchild when she was 88 years old. The paintbrush brought her immediate joy and uncovered a hidden talent. From that time forward, she painted daily for as long as she was able. She won several awards at local contests and exhibitions and even a few commissions. None of these awards brought her more pride and joy than making a special surprise painting for a loved one.
Helen was a devoted Christian and was the same person in private as in public. She loved God and her neighbor in authentic ways that led others to believe God loved them, too. She is dearly missed by her family, but they hold to the hope her life pointed to and trust they will hear her joyful laughter again.
She is preceded in death by her parents; husband, Charlie; daughter, Caroline; and son, Floyd. She is survived by daughter, Penney (Ken) Carden; daughter, Judy McLaney; daughter, Mary Ruth Moceri; son, Tom Harwell; a brother, George Gardner; 17 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.
A funeral service celebrating her life and claiming the hope of the resurrection will be held Wednesday, July 12, 11 a.m., at New Providence Church of the Nazarene with Ministers Ken Carden and Nathan Carden officiating and Foreman Funeral Home directing. A time for visitation for family and friends will begin at 10 a.m. at the church.
Flowers will be accepted, or memorials may be made to New Providence Church of the Nazarene.
Pallbearers will be Steven Carden, Brian Carden, Dann Yelen, Henry Carden, Ethan Carden, Justin Waggoner, Daniel Harwell, and Kevin Harwell.
Those wishing to sign the online registry may do so at www.foremanfuneralhome.com.