R.I.P. Helen Wishon

Got an e-mail from the neighborhood list:

Helen Wishon, former Southeast Priority Board member and past president of the Neighborhood Leadership Institute Alumni Association, died yesterday.  As a South Park representative on the Priority Board she worked to beautify her neighborhood and to provide positive opportunities for the youth in her area.
While a member of the Southeast Priority Board Helen served as Chair of the Housing Committee, and on the Executive and Land Use Committees.  She planned and organized Southeast’s annual recognition dinner for  for many years.  She was a tireless and generous advocate for stray animals.

Helen was one of my heroes. She was willing to fight to be heard- although some took her just for being old and bitter. At one time, she owned “Alexanders” the bar on Brown Street, that was as famous for it’s drink and drown nights as it was for being next to the Todd Burlesque. Both are now an empty green field between an old Dayton firehouse that’s been turned into a house- and a lot that has had two of the ugliest buildings ever- first a Rally’s burger drive through and then a “Medicine Shoppe” drug store that’s never really opened.

The block used to have character- just like it had Helen- a character. At times she was the foil to the neighborhood machine- and others, she was its strongest advocate. She may not have been a “preservationist”- but, her home was always not only well kept, but had the most spectacular display of flowers around. Helen fought for the less fortunate, for the class of people who didn’t know they had a voice. She was a shrewd businesswoman, who understood there had to be balance between what was feasible for business- and what could be expected by the community. Her work on the priority board was all volunteer- and she took it seriously.

South Park has lost a few of its grand dames over the last few years. I’ll still miss Betty Jane John, Pat Breidenbach and now Helen. They were all strong women, who were fearless and lived life on their terms.

Those who knew Helen could probably add quite a few anecdotes to this brief remembrance, and I hope you do.

I’ll just remember that if it hadn’t been for Helen, there never would have been water spigots on the Burns Avenue center boulevard- and now, there may not be someone to haul out the hose and water the plants anymore. That small gesture may not be missed by most, but, if that’s the small change you can make in the world- and just a few notice it, then you’ve made a difference.

Helen made a much greater contribution, and she will be missed.

[add] Services for Helen will be on Monday February 2, 2009 at the Burns Avenue Gospel Mission Chapel located at 64 Burns Avenue at 6:30pm.  Friends and family are welcome to gather after the service for light refreshments at the South Park Tavern located at 1301 Wayne Avenue.  Contributions to SICSA in Helen’s name may be made in lieu of flowers.

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