Helen Virginia Bell Galloway
Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery
A Life Story (Part I)
On a wintery day in Powhatan, Virginia, the loving Christian home of Joel Pembroke and Josephine Howell Bell was enriched by the arrival of a third child, a baby girl. Raised with five siblings and a large close-knit extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles, Helen Virginia was well loved and nutured in her family's tradition of service to others, hard-work, cleanliness, commitment to God and devotion to family.
Country living, wholesome fun, long walks to the segregated schoolhouse, home-grown and home-cooked meals, bible reading and family prayers, and Christian training at Mt. Zion Baptist Church gave Helen a strong foundation. Life on the farm with a stay-at-home mother, as was the norm in 1920's rural south, offered her a stable and secure upbringing. Brushing her Grandma Ellen's long hair, special horseback rides on Sunday afternoons, sampling her sister Bea's homemade candy sweets cooked on the hot tin roof, walking to school in knee deep snow, and eating her Grandma Edie's gingerbread were among the fond childhood memories Helen enjoyed retelling throughout the years.
After graduation from the Powhatan County High School, Helen's family and Uncle Wallace Howell sacrificed to send her off to college at Hampton Institute. Her rural schooling was no match for the urban education of the sophisticated students from the big cities, but Helen persisted, struggled academically, and persevered. It was while crying in the dormitory staircase after "lights out" one night, trying to study by flashlight that she met a fellow student, Annelle Franklin, who came to her rescue and became a close, life-long friend.
With a bachelor's degree in education, Helen devoted the majority of her life to loving and teaching children in New York City's preschools and elementary schools. A creative teacher, she took great pains to make her lessons relevant and fresh. Her professional excellence was recognized and rewarded, including her receiving the district Teacher of the Year Award. She pursued higher education at St. John's University and Queens' College in New York City, eventually earning a Master's degree in education.
When the soldiers came marching home from WWII, her brother Bub introduced her to his soldier friend, Joe Galloway. This Virginia belle and the dashing Texan were married, soon adding two daughters to this union. Sharing a love for people and laughter, Joe and Helen were a popular couple, entertaining friends and serving as the 'Life of the party."
In 1965 Helen discovered the seventh-day Sabbath during an evangelistic meeting conducted by Elder E.E. Cleveland in Jamaica, New York and joined the Seventh-day Adventist church. Her service in the church included sunshine band, church clerk, Sabbath School Superintendent, usher board and hospitality ministry. She was a frequent workshop presenter at the Northeastern Conference training meetings.
Following in her family's values of community service, Helen took a special interest in the aged and lonely and cared for several elderly neighbors, especially those without family members, nuturing them for years and even planning and executing their funerals. Accepting the gifts they offered to her was not an option, as she gave freely, modeling what she had been taugh by her parents.
Another love of Helen's was assisting brides-to-be. Not only did she plan and coordinate the wedding service and help select the gown, but she also baked wedding cakes and cleaned and decorated reception halls. Her photo album overflows with thank-you notes from grateful couples.
Helen kept her hands busy with sewing, crochet and knitting, making her girls' clothing, and she even experimented with millinery, creating just the right hats to adorn her stylish suits.
Traveling with her close New York friends to Bermuda and the Caribbean, organizating special programs, serving on executive boards, helping needy students, caring for her parents, working with the family to rename a road in honor of her grandfather, John Tyler Bell, "cooking up fun" with her beloved cousins, Gladys Jackson and Helen Laws, and laughing until she cried with family and friends, including her California buddies, were among her favorite activities. And who could forget her famous "shows?".
Blessed with a listening heart and problem-solving discernment, many people sought her out for personal counseling, valuing her wisdom and confidence. Young and old enjoyed her company. Vibrant, strong, assertive, ever reminding us to "stand up for our rights", helen was a leader who enjoyed people, tackled problems, and lived life, the abundant life that her Best Friend, Jesus, promised and gave her.
Her last years of illness and decline did not deminish her trust and close relationship with Jesus. His care for her was miraculous. Included among her last admonitions to her daughters was, "You've got to be there; get it together; you've got to be in heaven!" And she often reiterated, "But, He promised me...Jesus promised He would come and take me with him. He promised!"
Later, when her speech was reduced to just a sentence or two each day, she would still respond to the question, "Good morning, Mother. How are you today?" by cheerfully exclaiming, "Praising the Lord". So today, we echo her statement and are "praising the Lord" as we exclaim, "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you for letting your dynamic child, Helen enrich our lives!"
Loved ones remaining to continue the praises include: her husband, Joseph Galloway; two daughters and their husbands, Jacqueline and Wenique Blake, and Stephanie and Clif Baker; four siblings, Joel and his wife, Jaunita Bell, Mabel Gilliam, and Wallace Bell, (Her dear sister, Beatrice Booker preceded her in death in 1967); five grandchildren, Marcus, Shennoa, Clifton, Natalie and Courtney; beloved nieces and nephews, many dear cousins and other relatives and loving friends from coast to coast.
For Part II of this life story, read Corinthians 9:2 and John 14:3
Words of Appreciation
expressions of sympathy and comfort.