Helen Jablonski (1917 – 2014)
Helen Evelyn (Zydek) Jablonski passed away Monday, March 03, 2014, at the age of 97. As she desired, Helen spent her last days surrounded by her family and friends in her home in the Woodlands Assisted Living facility at Cantata Adult Life Services in Brookfield.
Helen was born and raised in Lyons, and lived most of her life in Riverside, where she was very active in St. Paul’s Episcopal Parish. Helen’s three grandsons loved to hear stories about her childhood in Lyons, some of which involved helping her father to bottle his home-brewed beer, and dodging hot pennies that Al Capone would heat in a pan on his stove and throw to the neighborhood children. Even as a young child, Helen was very energetic and organized. At seven years of age, she created a library for her family and friends in the attic of her home. Helen was also very adventurous and open to trying new ideas and accepting dares, such as running through a Gypsy camp one day or walking across the ridge of her family’s roof in front of an audience of neighborhood children.
In her twenties, Helen married Harry Jablonski, a sign painter from Cicero. Together, they raised two sons, Bruce and Russell, and ran their own sign shop. Helen also found time to work at other jobs as well, for a time at Jack and Jill Preschool, where she made a children’s record; Harry, the sign painter, designed the cover. She also served as a member of the League of Women Voters, a lobbying/educational political organization dealing mostly with women’s rights, and taught Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) and Assertiveness Training for Women for many years at St. Paul’s. Helen and Harry also traveled extensively, eventually visiting such places as Poland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Dutch Antilles, and Jerusalem.
Shortly after her sons grew up and left home, Helen found herself immersed in a situation that would forever change her life, and which created an activist out of her. She was selected to be a member of the Black Panther Special Grand Jury, a case which involved indictment of State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan for the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton. The year-long trial focused on the issues of race, politics in the judicial process, and corruption and abuse of power first-hand. With the help of several other jurors who were all brave enough to challenge the system and speak out for what they believed to be right, they handed down a guilty verdict for Hanrahan and several of his associates. Helen claimed that seeing housewives like herself and other “ordinary” people accomplishing such a feat inspired her to do more and led her believe that she could help create positive change within the community.
Working with her parish, Helen helped launch PeopleCare, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to serving elders who become homebound and cut off from people and places in the Riverside, North Riverside, Brookfield, LaGrange, and Lyons areas, in 1990. Today, PeopleCare serves over 200 clients with a team of dedicated volunteers, offering home visitation, volunteer transportation, a cooperative grocery shopping program, subsidized taxi transportation, and information and referral.
In addition to overseeing PeopleCare, Helen also served as the Director of Christian Education at St. Paul’s Church for many years. One of her accomplishments as director there entailed developing a curriculum at St. Paul’s for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a spiritual education program for young children. Part of Helen’s training for this curriculum involved traveling to Assisi, Italy, where she studied with Sophia Cavelletti, the developer and founder of the Cathechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Helen also attended St. George’s College, which is situated only a few minutes from the Old City of Jerusalem. St. George’s provides year-round courses that combine academic study, spirituality and travel. Time spent at the college introduced her to archaeological sites and holy places, churches, mosques and synagogues, immersing her in the various exotic cultures of the Middle East.
For the last twenty-five years of her life, Helen’s goals and vision revolved around one simple mission: “No older person in the last third of life will feel abandoned.” Thanks to Helen, an increasingly growing number of Southwest suburban seniors have greater access to nutritious food, dialysis, and medicine, and are greater able to enjoy quality-of-life moments.
Even at 96 years of age, Helen’s activism continued. Still dedicated to raising awareness about PeopleCare and the need for compassionate care for seniors, last October Helen appeared in both the Chicago Tribune as one of their Remarkable Women and on WGN as one of “Chicago’s Very Own” with Micah Meterre, who stated, “Even at 96, Helen Jablonski is still going strong for the folks who need her help.” Helen’s legacy will live on as others step up to carry on her commitment to improving the lives of others.
Helen is survived by her two sons, Bruce (Valerie) and Russell (Ann), her three grandsons, Scott (Teri), Brian (Tracy), and Mark (Carrie), and five great-grandchildren.
Mass of Christian Burial 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at St. Paul’s Parish 60 Akenside Road Riverside. The body will lie in state at St. Paul’s for one hour prior to Mass for prayer and meditation. A reception will follow the mass. Inurnment at St. Paul’s Parish Mausoleum. In lieu of flowers donations to People Care, Inc.. 60 Akenside Road, Riverside, Il 60546. Funeral info at 708-447-2261 or www.ivinsfh.com.
Ivins/Moravecek Funeral Home
80 East Burlington Street
Riverside, Illinois 60546