Heaven gained an angel. Helen (Oke) Carlson, age 99, passed on November 11, 2021. While our heart aches, we know she's in the loving arms of her parents, Charles and Mable (Thomas) Oke and her relatives who passed before. Born in St. John's Newfoundland, Helen exemplified her heritage of hospitality. Warm and loving, her home was open to all. From choir parties, Syracuse University graduate students, soccer team parties, folks needing a place for Thanksgiving dinner, her children and grandchildren and all of their friends always felt welcomed in her home. Neighbors lovingly called her the "mayor" of her street. She would walk her dog around the neighborhood several times a day, greeting anyone she met. No one was a stranger for very long with her. Her stories were memorable and detailed. She loved to chat and never forgot a birthday or special event. Friends and family alike were happy to receive her thoughtful birthday card each year. She took great pride in keeping connected.
Having received her nursing degree from General Hospital Nursing School in St. John's Newfoundland, she traveled to NYC to begin her career at the NY Hospital Emergency Room. Life brought her to Syracuse where she married and raised her two children. She became active in the community, volunteering at Upstate Medical Center where she served as President of the Auxiliary, Chairman of the Gift Shop and on various planning committees for special events. She served there for over 30 years and transitioned to volunteering at the Everson Museum of Art for several years. Helen went back to nursing and worked several years for Dr. Carpenter in Fayetteville. She kept her nurses license until the age of 90 when she was "headhunted" for a job telling the recruiter, "My dear, do you know how old I am?"
Church was an important part of her life. She was a member of the Kirk Choir at Park Central Presbyterian Church since 1952, lovingly dubbed "The Choir Mom". She also played in the Hand Bell Choir, was a member of Session, an Elder and taught Sunday School.
Her greatest joy were her children and grandchildren. She was the loudest and most dedicated fan on the sidelines of her grandchildren's games, be it soccer, baseball or hockey. She was even given a "yellow card" at one soccer game due to her "over enthusiasm". She loved that story. Her house was where everyone would gather. Planning her holiday events, Sunday dinners, decorating her house, and making TONS of homemade cookies to give away gave her such happiness. She did everything with love.
As her health declined these past few years Helen found new "family" with the staff and residents of Menorah Park. She was everyone's "Granny". Lovingly cared for and respected, her last few years were filled with special memories. She never stopped nurturing be it advice for her new "granddaughters" or holding the hand of a distressed resident. She never thought of herself as old. She was one of a kind and truly very special.
Besides her parents, Helen was predeceased by her brother, Hunter Oke and his wife Sylvia, her sister-in-law Bea Pope, her very special niece Karen (Oke) Moores, all from St John's Newfoundland, and her former husband, Russell C Carlson. She is survived by her brother, Charles Pope, Sr. and many cousins, nieces, nephews and dear friends.
Her legacy lives on with her children, Leslie (Rick) Garcea, Russell Jr (Bridget) Carlson and her grandchildren Kelly Garcea (John Guidotti), RJ Garcea, Russell Carlson III (Lora) and Christopher Carlson.
In lieu of flowers, please be kind to someone. Call a friend or relative, send a cheery note to a nursing home resident. Forgive someone. Any act of kindness will honor this special lady.
Calling hours will be Tuesday November 16 from 4-7pm at Burns Garfield Funeral Home 3175 E Genesee St. Private graveside service to follow on Wednesday for immediate family. There will be a service and musical celebration of her life in the spring at Park Central Presbyterian Church. Donations in her honor may be made to Menorah Park Employee Fund 4100 E, Genesee St., Syracuse NY 13214 Or Park Central Presbyterian Church Choir Fund 504 E Fayette St, Syracuse NY 13202