We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor the life of Helene Axelrod, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and cherished friend. Helene had had more than her share of medical problems for a long time now, and so we all thought we were emotionally prepared for this. But in a way, none of us are ever prepared, because the reality of a loved one’s passing is always different from our anticipation of the passing. Helene passed away very suddenly at home, and it’s not just a platitude to say that she did not suffer. But it is going to take a while to really understand that she’s gone.
Helene was born in New York City on April 8, 1925, the daughter of Julius & Matilda Margolis and the dear sister of Marilyn.
Helene went to Hunter College and she had a teacher named Ameta Axelrod, who had a young brother-in-law named David who was going to be back from the service. This teacher set her brother-in-law up with this nice Jewish girl named Helene Margolis. Helene and David’s mother had the same birthday. One lived at 1595 Second Ave. and the other lived at 1595 Macombs St in the Bronx. Helene’s marriage to David has been a wonderful marriage of mutual love and respect for nearly 69 years. March 28 would have been 69 years.
In her prime, Helene was nothing short of a superwoman. She had a job when women were not working. She raised the children while David was on the road as a salesman. It didn’t hurt that Helene had two easy and respectful kids in June and Robert, kids who never got into trouble. She was super-organized. She planned meals a week in advance. She first worked part time at the Helen St. School. She went back and got two graduate degrees, her Master’s Degree in Library Science from Southern Ct. State University, and her sixth year degree. She really fulfilled herself.
She is best known as a librarian at Hamden High School for more than 20 years. It was a badge of honor as a student at Hamden High to be thrown out of the library by Mrs. Axelrod. People would come up to her many years later and say, “Mrs. Axelrod, you threw me out of the library.”
She was so proud of June and Roy and Robert and Katrina and their lives and their families.
And if you ever wanted to hear pride, you should of heard her speak about her grandsons, Daniel and now-Captain Philip & 2nd LT. Benjamin. She did her share of worrying, but even at her most worried, she was very proud, beaming proud.
When I came here thirty something years ago, Helene and David came to a get-together, and she told me that she was a librarian. I asked if she wanted to be the synagogue librarian, and she said, “Not till I retire.” So I waited many years and then held her to her promise, and she became our librarian here for years.
We all have so many memories. I am personally remembering more things every day. Helene, on a shul Israel trip, has a medical emergency and has to be rushed to the hospital, and all she can do is rave about how nice everyone was to her.
Helene and David came for years to our Wednesday night Bible class. Somehow, along the way, Helene became our Dr. Ruth. When there was a sexy passage that the prudish rabbi blushed to read, it was Helene who read it, often with full explanation. She read the way people used to read, with articulation and diction.
There were times over the years that I saw her without a smile on her face, but not many times. There were times over the years when she didn’t ask me about my family, especially my daughter Sarah who she identified with, but there weren’t many times that she didn’t show her interest and memory.
Speaking for myself, I somehow can’t understand that I’m not going to see her again. The good news is that I can hear her voice right now.
I know that for the family, these last years have been very difficult and scary, but I ask you to remember that Helene and David have lived these years their way, in their home, and that Helene lived her way and even died her way, in her own home, calling David’s name.
To David and June and Robert and the whole family, we offer our most sincere condolences. She was a righteous woman. May she rest in peace. Let us say Amen.