NAPA - Helen van Boer passed away peacefully on January 26, 2023 in the loving care of Elizabeth House Hospice in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She lived an amazing life for nearly 97 years as poet, scientist, artist, teacher, counselor, mother, and wife.
The youngest of four children, she was born in Ft. Sheridan near Chicago, Illinois to U. S. Army Captain Calvin Dudley Bush and Frances Kein Bush. Her family moved to Madison, Tennessee in 1928. Graduating high school in Nashville, Tennessee, she attended Madison College, where she received her BA degree in English and Biology. She furthered her studies at George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, where she earned Master's degrees in English and Zoology.
In 1949 she met Bertil van Boer, Sr., a Swedish immigrant, conductor, composer, flautist, and educator, to whom she was married for 65 years. In 1951 they moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where he was on the faculty of the School of Music at Florida State University, and she enrolled in the doctoral program there in marine biology. In 1958 they moved to Southern California, where she taught school in West Covina. After a summer in Vancouver, British Columbia, the family moved to the Napa Valley in 1961, where she taught Marine Biology and English at Pacific Union College, and subsequently high school in Santa Rosa, California and physiology at Napa High School, as well as English at night at Napa College.
In 1976 she received a PhD in Counseling from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, and in 1982 she retired from the Napa Valley Unified School District. She and Bertil moved to Truckee, California, where she served on the boards of Truckee-Tahoe Unified School District, the Library, and Cemetery, as well as teaching courses at Sierra Nevada College in Incline, Nevada. In 1994 they moved to Hendersonville, where she continued to write poetry, becoming a founding member of the Seasoned Poets of the Blue Ridge, doing artwork, giving music lessons, and teaching courses at Blue Ridge College, as well as doing private counseling.
She led a full and productive life, often traveling to Europe, Turkey, and Oceania, aswell as around the United States, having a passion for music and art, publishing books of poetry (often encouraging anyone she met to write a poem), and teaching others to become the best they could be. She also collaborated with her husband as a librettist in works of vocal music. She enjoyed her visits and frequent communication with her family, relatives, and friends. She is survived by her three sons, Bertil Jr., Eric, and Kenton, two much-loved grandsons Aaron and Alexander, and three great-grandchildren, Alden, Carter, and Cooper, as well as various nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was loved by all and will be greatly missed.