Obituary: Helen Finney Mar. 14 1935 – Oct. 31, 2021

Helen Elizabeth Sherman Finney died in the early morning hours of Sunday October 31, 2021. She died from pancreatic cancer.

Helen was born March 14, 1935 in Hartsdale, NY to Owena and Roger Sherman.  She was the third of four children and the only girl.  Hers was a difficult breech birth, requiring assistance from the volunteer fire department. The lifesaving efforts left her with the crooked smile that her husband would find so charming. Additionally, the story made The New York Times and Helen believed that surviving those critical moments made every new day a gift.  She also considered it her 15 minutes of fame.

A few years later her family moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where she graduated from Manhattan High School in 1953.  It was there that she made lifelong friends. 

Upon graduating, she headed off to New York City. She worked hard, subsisting on ice cream and maintaining several jobs at once, to put herself through college at New York University.

Her graduate studies led to an MA in sociology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she met and married Henry C. Finney in 1960.  She loved to say that she knew he was The One because he was so smart! The two then moved to Berkeley, California where the first of their two children, Catherine, was born in 1966. In 1967 the family of 3 relocated to Madison, Wisconsin, where their second child, Christopher, was born in1970.

Helen lived in cooperative housing during her years in Ann Arbor, which made a lasting impression on the benefits of cooperatives. She remained a loyal and active food co-op member in every place she has lived since.

The family of four moved to Burlington Vermont in 1973. For the next 22 years, Helen raised her children, and prepared complicated tax returns for H&R Block. As a side interest she started helping people with their genealogy.

Helen always had a fondness, born from necessity, for making her own clothing, and she remained a talented seamstress throughout her life. She started sewing as a child, making detailed clothing for her dolls. Unusual techniques appealed to her and she would often make quilts to showcase those methods learned from years of textile workshops. 

Most of all, Helen loved weaving. She maintained a deep and enduring passion for the craft for all of her life. It was only when macular degeneration made it impossible to continue that she stopped. It was with great frustration that she had to leave her weaving behind in the last four months of her life.  Throughout her life, she has woven hundreds of scarves, runners, towels, curtains, throws, pillows, placemats, shawls and fabric, from which she made beautiful clothing of her own design. 

In 1995, Helen and Henry moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico. It was in Los Alamos that Helen lived the happiest and most fulfilling years of her life. 

She was an active member of the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center, Las Tejedoras Fiber Arts Guild, The Unitarian-Universalist Church, The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) and the Geology club. She served as treasurer for several of these organizations, and donated many hours to the various tasks and projects of each group. She developed many strong friendships and ties to the community. The people who met Helen would always say what a wonderful and generous person she was. 

Proud of her perfect health, she was startled by the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in December 2019.  Unlike most, hers was discovered early thanks to the onset of alarmingly yellow skin (jaundice). After a strenuous two-year battle, she succumbed and died peacefully at home under the loving and devoted care of her daughter, husband and son-in-law, in the early hours of October 31, 2021.

Helen is survived by her brother Owen Sherman of Palestine, Texas, her husband Henry Finney, their daughter Catherine Richmond, son-in-law Scott, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial gathering is being planned for a later time (COVID dependent) at the family’s home.