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Homage to Helen

Helen Hester Ossa, my friend of over thirty years, moved away this week.

Helen and I met through our husbands who worked together, but we didn’t really become friends until I started writing. Our friend Julie and I formed a writers group with a couple of other young women we met in a writing class. Helen heard of it and joined us . The two young writers dropped out, but Helen, Julie and I persisted. Our Writers Group, later including Virginia, another of my husband’s coworkers, continues still.

One of my first memories of Helen was a visit to her house and seeing artificial flowers in her garden, ironic for a member of her community’s garden society. Around the same time she admitted to having a crush on Sting. I loved both of those things about her. I, of course, have had crushes on actors and celebrities (Gerard Butler, anyone?). I loved that Helen admitted to it!

Together Helen, Julie and I learned about Romance Writers of America and Washington Romance Writers, the local RWA chapter that has continued to be very important to all of us. We’ve each been active in WRW. Helen was the treasurer for over two years. Julie is just finishing up being president. I’ve taken on lesser roles.

Not only has Helen helped my writing (especially my placement of commas) she also has taught me to be fearless. In the very first WRW meeting Helen, Julie, and I attended together, Julie and I were ready to scurry to the back of the room, but Helen, said no. She taught us to sit up front. Helen has always had the self-confidence to be noticed.

Maybe that’s why she wears hats. Helen owns lots of hats, including one I found in a vintage shop, made of pheasant feathers. She started a Christmas tradition for us. Every Christmas we have déjeuner avec des chapeaux, lunch with hats. We are always noticed.

Helen is a great seamstress. She made me two Regency dresses over the years, the first from an authentic Regency era pattern.

In the last year or so, I’ve seen even more of Helen. She invited me to have lunch weekly with Anne, another of my husband’s coworker’s wives who I’ve also known for 30 years. We’ve lunched at First Watch and have been regulars there, on a first name basis with the wait staff. They know our drink orders by heart.

Helen also convinced me to attend Wednesday Night Writes, an informal get together of WRW members who meet weekly at a Panera Bread and simply write together. Wednesday Night Writes enabled Helen to finish her manuscript, a goal that alluded her–mostly because of all her other interests.

Like costumes. Every year Helen and her husband have a Halloween party and we must dress in costume. And Helen was behind our costumes worn at the WRW Retreat Romance Jeopardy game. The theme was weddings.
From left to right – Monica is a vampire bride; I am Miss Havisham; Julie is our bridesmaid; and Helen is a Day of the Dead bride.

Between lunch and Wednesday Night Writes I’ve seen Helen at least twice a week and now she’s gone. Oh, I know I’ll talk to her. We can Skype. She’ll be back to visit and we’ll visit them. She moved to be near her daughter, son-in-law, and little granddaughter. A grandmother myself, I totally understand.

But I will miss her terribly!!

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