Helen Ruth Hamilton lived a whole-hearted life. She embraced each moment as a gift and every person as a friend. Helen provided a safe space for others to simply be; she listened with empathy, remembered what people said, and always reflected the best in people. She possessed an indomitable spirit, was fiercely independent, and her drive to be on the move and of service to others proved a powerful role model for all who were lucky to share time with her. Loyal, determined, and strong, Helen loved with her whole soul, met life’s joys and challenges with unwavering faith, and never hesitated to speak her truth. She was a devoted mother, grandmother, and friend; her bright and beautiful legacy will surely continue to shine as a beacon of hope and inspiration for those she so dearly loved.
Helen Ruth Hamilton, age 83, sadly passed away on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 20, 2021. Helen was born in Bond, Kentucky, on October 6, 1937, the daughter of Charles Victor “Vic” Hall and Ruth (York) McGee Hall. Her parents were delighted to welcome their first daughter, whom they shared together. Helen’s early years were rooted in deep family bonds. Both of Helen’s parents were widowed at a young age; they were lucky to have found love again with one another and their families. When they first married, they joined together their four children from their first marriages (two children from each parent). In time, the family grew to include six children that the parents shared together, bringing the family to 10 children total. Oris, Geraldine, Robert, Lena, Chuck, William, Madeline, Virgil, and Annabelle were Helen’s first and lifelong friends. Regardless of distance in time or miles, the siblings found ways to share their lives and the deep connections they formed growing up together. Growing up with a large family in rural Kentucky, in the wake of the Great Depression, Helen’s childhood was filled with activity and rich traditions. Faith and family always came first. The values of hard work, perseverance, and resourcefulness became the firm foundation upon which Helen consciously built the rest of her life. While her father worked in a factory in Cincinnati and farmed. Her mother used her gifts to ensure her family’s needs were met. She was a talented seamstress and quilter and also served her community as a midwife. Tragically, when Helen was just nine years old, her family suffered a disastrous house fire. Not only was their home destroyed, Helen’s five-year-old sister Madeline died in the fire. The devastating loss of Madeline impacted Helen deeply and profoundly sharpened her awareness. Her inherently keen senses magnified, and she quickly became fiercely protective of those she loved. Helen learned by experience how quickly life can change and the importance of living in the moment. Like many in her generation, Helen learned to sew and quilt with great skill and developed confidence in her capacity to face life’s challenges. She loved to read and had a passion for learning. This passion inspired her to find a way to make her dream of attending Annville Institute, a private Christian school in the Appalachian Mountains, come true by working at the school to pay her own tuition. While attending the Institute, she also participated in the cheerleading team. As the result of her signature passion and hard work, Helen proudly graduated high school. While attending an ice cream social, Helen met her future husband, Ronald “Ronnie” Hamilton. The couple fell in love and married in a double ceremony in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 14, 1957. After serving in the U.S. Army, Ronnie found work at Allied Paper Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The newlyweds moved to West Michigan, where Helen began working at Bronson Hospital. In time, the couple was delighted to welcome children to their family. Lillie Elaine, Ronald Jeffrey, Londa Lee and Linda Lou (identical mirror twins) quickly became the center of Helen’s world, and she dedicated herself to being a stay-at-home mother, ensuring their good care. Despite their 14-year marriage ending in divorce, Helen and Ronnie remained deeply connected and strong supporters of one another. As a mom, Helen was a fierce and unwavering source of support and encouragement. She loved her children with everything she had and never failed to reflect their goodness. Though she lived most of her life in the midwest, she proudly hung onto her southern roots; family, faith, resiliency, loyalty, and resourcefulness were the cornerstones of her life. In every moment, her children witnessed their mother embodying her core belief that with great gifts comes great responsibility, and the greatest of these is to use one’s gifts in service of others. For those who knew her best, Helen’s attention to detail appeared to be nothing short of a superpower. Nothing missed her observations nor her opinions. This was best evidenced in her legendary Southernisms, which included, “Dammit, Elaine!” “Shit fire and save matches”; “He was pure as the driven snow, then drifted,” ” You’re a good doobie,” “Madder than a wet hen,” “Hold your horses,” and “It’s hotter than a 2 dollar pistol.” Her keen senses not only kept those around her safe and in the know, but they also nourished her love for books, theater, music, traveling, and art. She loved a fine meal, swimming at the YMCA, camping, bowling, playing bridge, and shopping for a steal. She traveled extensively throughout the country, as well as abroad with family and friends. When she moved into assisted living, she enjoyed crafting, playing bingo and never missed attending church when the service included musicians. Over the years, Helen worked a variety of jobs. For a time, she worked at Montgomery Ward and sold Avon. She worked as a cord board operator, navigating the old wire and cord switchboards, for Michigan Bell and AT&T, and eventually made her career as a Traffic Service Position System (TSPS) operator for AT&T. After retirement, Helen continued to stay busy, working as a guard at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Portage Northern High School as a secretary. Helen’s family was her world. As her family grew to include grandchildren, she welcomed her role as grandmother with enthusiasm and honor. Emily and Lillie were her heart’s delight, and she spent as much time as she could with them. Even after suffering a stroke in 2012, Helen never missed a granddaughters’ recital and continued to volunteer to babysit. She treasured sharing her passions, enthusiastically passing on her love for music, camping, holidays, vacations, and showing off her amazing gams. A true matriarch, she reflected the gold she so easily saw in her children and grandchildren and encouraged their every endeavor. Welcoming her great-granddaughters, Eleanora and Genevieve, will be a memory the entire family will long remember. For all who knew her, Helen was a source of love, acceptance, encouragement, and inspiration. While she will be greatly missed, her bright light will continue to shine in the hearts of those she so deeply loved. Though she will be deeply missed, we will find comfort in carrying her wonderful legacy forward. With each Jeopardy game we play, adventure we take, strangers we greet as a friend, challenges we meet with confidence, and family picnics we gather to share, we celebrate the many ways Helen gifted our lives. In this way, we keep her spirit and memory alive. Proudly carrying her beautiful legacy forward are her beloved children, Lillie Elaine Brady, Ronald Jeffrey Hamilton, and Linda Lou Hamilton; cherished grandchildren, Emily Elaine (Alejandro) Sandoval and Lillie Ruth Hamilton; treasured great-grandchildren, Eleanora and Genevieve Sandoval; the father of her children, Ronald Lee Hamilton; nieces and nephews and many, many friends. Helen was preceded in death by her beloved daughter, Londa lee Hamilton, siblings, Oris Hall, Geraldine Rice, Robert (Shirley) McGee, Lena (Roy) Burns, Chuck (Jane) Hall, William Hall, Madeline Hall, Virgil (JaQuita) Hall, and Annabelle Simpson; son-in-law, Rick Cyr; nephew, Rick Wiles; and nieces, Rebecca Bishop and Barbara Campbell.