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Helen O. (Plante) McDonald

December 20, 1934 ~ January 21, 2024 (age 89) 89 Years Old

Helen McDonald Obituary

Palmer/Waterford, CT-Helen O. (Plante) McDonald entered into God’s Promise on January 21, 2024 . Born December 20, 1934, to the late Arthur J. Jr. and Louise M. (Hetu) Plante, she was a life-ling resident of Palmer, MA until 2016 when she relocated to Waterford, CT with her daughter. She was predeceased by her husband of forty-seven years, Neil M. McDonald (2002) and their daughter Mary Ann McDonald (1991).

A graduate of Palmer High School, Class of ’52, Helen entertained audiences with her dramatic presentations, musical talents, and leadership. Well into her eighties, Helen recalled with glee her role as Miss Brooks and the elocution and delivery of her words. Her leadership and willingness to speak out against injustice shown when, as senior class president, she led classmates and teachers to cancel hotel reservations during their senior trip as it become apparent that hotel enforced segregation, so a classmate would be barred from entering. After graduation, Helen worked for the New England Tel. and Tel. phone company and as a bookkeeper in the Palmer National Bank.

Education was a magnet to her, and she pursued her dream to further her education after raising the family. After completing her studies at Gaugh Business School in Springfield, MA., Helen was awarded Distinguished Person Certification by the Springfield Business and Professional Women’s Club for her pursuit of excellence in education. For a time, she was a charge nurse at Wing Memorial Hospital and Ring Nursing Homes as well as Monson State Hospital where she gave care and love to those so often forgotten and overlooked. She graduated from Holyoke Community College where she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society and served as its secretary. Soon after, Helen attended and graduated from The College of Our Lady of the Elms with a bachelor’s degree, Magna Cum Laude, earning a place in the Alpha Sigma Lambda Society. Upon graduating from The Elms with a Master’s Degree in Applied Theology, Helen was the recipient of the Monsignor O’Neil Award for excellence in Religious Studies and went on to use her gifts to minister to others throughout the Springfield Diocese while completing the studies necessary to profess commitment as an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Throughout her life, Helen served the Dioceses of Springfield, Hartford, and Worcester in the capacity of Minister of Music. There, she blended her love for music and ministry and people. Whether it was through her membership in the Choristers’ Guide specializing in children’s choirs or utilizing her membership with the New London and Springfield Chapters of the American Guild for Organist, Helen’s reputation as a compassionate musician who found ‘just the right pieces’ preceded her, and she was often mentioned in sermons for her outstanding service to the church and community, coming to be known as the “Funeral Organist” for the empathy and compassion shown when selecting music for grieving families. She entertained individuals at the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home in Enfield, CT and served as Eucharistic Minster to outlying areas of the diocese, treasuring her time with the homebound elderly. A woman ahead of her time, Helen continued her deep commitment to the Church, ecumenism, and community often being a guest soloist/organist for both Catholic and non-Catholic places of worship between Worcester and the Berkshires and into Connecticut and working to serve the needs of the elderly as Outreach Coordinator for the town of Brimfield.

Above all, family was at the core of Helen’s being. She taught her children the importance of faith and their responsibility to care and work for others. Helen is survived by her daughter Erin McDonald of Waterford, CT, with whom she made her home; her son Michael Shawn McDonald and his wife Lynn of Graniteville, SC; four granddaughters: Jessica Fenner of Branford, CT; Nicole and husband Zachary Rawson of Roanoke, VA; Stephanie and husband Alastair Yonkauski of West Point, UT, and Caitlin Mary McDonald  of Windsor, CT. She also leaves her great-granddaughters Marin Yonkauski and Virginia (Gigi) Rawson. Helen was predeceased by her sister Joan Brothers of Monson with whom she shared a treasure trove of memories. Helen will be missed by her beloved nephew Timothy Brothers who always looked after his Aunt Helen, her friends Phyllis and Peter Wysocki and members of the St Luke’s Episcopal Church, and her furry friends, Clover and Finnigan.

A celebration of life ceremony will take place at a future date. If you are so moved, in lieu of flowers, a donation can be made in Helen’s name to The Mary Ann McDonald Memorial Scholarship, c/o The College of Our Lady of the Elms, 291 Springfield Street, Chicopee, MA 10103.

Lombard Funeral Home is assisting the family at this time. All services will be private and at the convenience of the family.

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