Seen here in 1994 in a Paris railway station on her way to explore her roots in Brittany, Helen Douarin Kier died at home in San Rafael on Jan. 21, 2020 surrounded by her adoring family.
She was 83.
Helen was a “water baby” who helped children, elders and people with disabilities learn to swim in the Sacramento Junior College pool beginning when she was 13.
She lifeguarded at summer camps and Sacramento public pools through her teens – and even after she started her family.
Helen wanted to be a schoolteacher like her older sister, Barbara. She attended McClatchy High School, Sacramento Junior College and Sacramento State College where she majored in education and minored in the arts.
She continued painting, making pottery and tile mosaics, weaving and knitting throughout her life.
She was an especially amazing knitter, creating sweaters of her own design for her kids, ponchos for her girlfriends and knit-clad teddy bears for every newborn arrival in her ever-expanding circle of family and friends.
Helen taught in schools throughout Sacramento, but her favorite assignment was that of science-room teacher at Riverside Elementary School, near her Old Land Park home, where she loved to share her understanding of how things work in nature and her passion for protecting all things natural.
In the early 1980s Helen and her husband Bill bought Strawberry Lodge in the Sierras high above Placerville and for the next three years, with the help of their kids, they brought the historic property back to life and made it a popular inn once more.
The Kiers moved to Marin County in 1986 so that Bill could help develop an environmental non-profit organization concerned with the protection of San Francisco Bay and its estuary.
Helen went to work with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the West Coast’s largest advocacy group for commercial salmon and crab fishing families. ‘
Helen was PCFFA’s office “girl Friday” for 14 years where the ranks of her admirers spread from southern California to Alaska.
In 2006 Helen and Bill moved to Blue Lake, just inland from Humboldt Bay, the village where her father grew up and where Helen spent her little-girl summers with her grandmother, Sula Douarin McCahan – her beloved “Meeme.”
By this time Helen was ‘Meeme’ to five beautiful grandkids of her own, Thaddeus, Will, Emilie, Zeke and Kierie.
In addition to her grandchildren, Helen leaves behind her husband Bill, children Rob, Kathryn and Mary Claire and their spouses Sandi, Didier and Michael.
Helen would want a shout-out to the wonderful staff at Skyview Day Club where she went most weekdays for exercise, good company, singing, art and fun, as well as to the gentle home-visiting staff of Hospice by the Bay who made her last days comfortable.
The answer to why everyone loved Helen is simple - Helen loved everyone first.