Helen V James

Helen Veronica James (August 24, 1924 – May 15, 2022)

Helen Veronica James passed away peacefully at home in her bed on Sunday, May 15th. Her decline was swift, the result of congestive heart failure.

Helen was born in Peabody, Massachusetts, on August 24, 1924. Her parents were Polish immigrants: her father, Stanislaw Zavadski, from Ukraine, and her mother, Józefa Phillipovich, from Lithuania. Helen’s first language was Polish, and from her strict Catholic upbringing, she internalized a deep abiding faith.

Helen attended Keefe School in Peabody and upon graduation went on to become a registered nurse. She practiced nursing in the homes of private clients for several years before a casual acquaintance suggested she apply to become an airline stewardess. Passing the strict qualifications set by the burgeoning new business of commercial airline travel, including exacting weight/height standards and either secretarial or nursing credentials, she was hired by American Airlines and attended six weeks of training at Air Stewardess School in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The heady five years she flew with American, based in New York City, charged her with an enduring thirst for travel and open road experiences. Her anecdotal recollections of the elite celebrities she met, including Marlon Brando, Doris Duke, Pearl Bailey, and Ava Gardner, never dimmed.

In April 1953, she married a pilot with Eastern Airlines, Eugene (Gene) Henry James. In November 1955 they moved with two baby daughters, Carol and Janice, to Hillbrook Farm on Readington Road in Readington Township, into a fine Colonial-era farmhouse set on twenty-seven acres of majestic rural New Jersey countryside. Daughters Betty and Anne soon followed, and Helen assumed the role of a dedicated mother and primary caregiver given Gene’s absences due to his profession.

Decades of child-rearing, house cleaning, delicious meals, family vacations, and holiday celebrations ensued. After Gene’s death in 2007 and into her later years, Helen thrived under the protective and exemplary love of her youngest daughter, Anne, her primary caregiver.

Helen carried a tune better than her husband or any of her daughters. She loved music and relished a good laugh. Until the end, she maintained high standards of dress, comportment, and presentation. She enjoyed reading immensely, especially romance novels, Westerns, tabloid magazines, and the Star Ledger. She possessed a vivid imagination and was characteristically articulate, determined, and feisty.

Helen is survived by her four deeply devoted daughters, Carol Ann, Janice Ellen, Betty Helen, and Anne Marie, and four delightful grandchildren, Aurora Marie James-Palmer, Garrett James Carpenter, Jeffrey James Carpenter, and Janine Mary LeChien.

Helen’s departure from this world was quick and into God’s arms, she was lovingly received. Those heartbroken loved ones left behind will never forget her maternally strong guiding light and caring ways.