"There are no
ordinary people..."
C. S. Lewis

Helen M. McLeod

Saturday, December 15, 1934
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Fife Lake, Saskatchewan

Helen Margaret McLeod (Goudie) passed peacefully at age 85, July 7th, 2020 at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, WA after complications from back surgery.

Helen was born Dec. 15th 1934 to Arthur and Ida Goudie on the family homestead in Fife Lake Saskatchewan, Canada. She and her sister Mary and brothers Don, Roy and Jack grew up in Cloverdale BC, Canada. Helen left home after high school to attend nursing school at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC and graduated class of 1956. She married John G. McLeod in 1959 in Portland, OR. She put her nursing career on hold to raise daughters Susan and Fern, living in Seattle, Ephrata WA, and Springfield, VA settling in Portland OR in 1968. Helen returned to her nursing career after her daughters started school, working at Barker Manufacturing then at Bonneville Power Administration before retiring in 1989. Helen and John then moved to Bellingham, WA in 2001 to be closer to Helen’s mother and siblings across the Canadian boarder.

From growing up on a farm in the 30’s and 40’s , she learned self sufficiency and frugality, which she carried throughout her life. Helen was an excellent seamstress, making clothes for both her children and herself; a gardener, growing vegetables and putting up produce for the winter; an avid cook, seeking out healthy food for her husband and growing daughters. She proudly expressed these values with a bumper sticker, “USE IT UP, WEAR IT OUT, MAKE DO, OR DO WITHOUT!”

Helen was most happy hiking throughout the Pacific Northwest. For many years she made time to hike two times a week. In Portland she hiked with and led hikes for the community school, later joining the Mazamas, a hiking club. She didn’t want winter to slow her down so she took up cross country skiing. In Bellingham she continued outdoor adventures with two hiking groups and a walking group, enriching her life with good friends, fresh air and love of nature.

Helen’s appreciation of nature and love of her fellow humans, led her to activism beginning with her involvement in the anti-nuclear campaign of the 70’s-80’s. Her life was lived giving gifts of time and money. Some of her many passions included volunteering at the food bank farm, making sandwiches for the homeless and combining social action with fun as an early member of the Raging Grannies, singing songs with catchy lyrics encouraging listeners of many marches and events to think about social justice. She took her civic duty seriously and encouraged her friends and family to always vote.

Helen found her spiritual home with the United Church of Christ. She was an active member of the Parkrose Community Church in Portland and later The First Congregational Church of Bellingham. Finding where she was needed, Helen volunteered for committees and was a Sunday regular giving her joyful voice to many hymns. She was very comfortable with the progressive social outreach sponsored by the church, the latest program Helen was involved with created a space in the church for a day shelter for youth facing homelessness.

Helen was always expanding her world and enjoyed many remarkable trips to Egypt, Russia, Costa Rica, Ireland and several visits back to Canada to visit her dear family. She also enjoyed many camping trips with friends and family.

Helen lived with zest and continued to learn, and to seek out new adventures. As she aged, she found new ways to travel such as a river boat trip up the Danube instead of a hiking trip in China. She also found new ways to give to her community by volunteering at the senior center instead of the food bank farm. She stayed active playing ping pong and doing yoga instead of hiking, and found fellowship in new places like Friday knitting with friends at the church and joining “The Crones” when she was unable to keep up with her walking groups.

Helen loved her family and her community of circles upon circles of friends. She was an inspirational role model for living ones values. Helen will be missed by all.

She is survived by her sister Mary (Bob) Gilholm and brothers Don Goudie and Jack (Judy) Goudie, and daughters Susan McLeod and Fern McLeod (Penny Rice), nieces and nephews Betty, Karen (Ken), Chris (Kira), Nancy, Dale (Linda) and David, brother-in-law Duncan McLeod and nephews Jerry (Jackie) McLeod and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, great nieces and nephews as well as many other loving family members and friends.

She is proceed in death by her loving husband John, mother Ida, father Arthur, brother Roy, sister-in-laws Elaine and Leona, brother-in-law Alex and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

Suggestions for contributions in Helen’s memory would include Day Shelter for homeless teens thru First Community Christian Church of Bellingham or any environmental causes.

We will not be holding a memorial during these restricted COVID times. Please gather with friends in smaller groups to celebrate her life.

The following was written by Helen in her “My Five Wishes” document;

“I would like to be remembered as a caring, kind, and accepting person who enjoyed and appreciated nature.”

“My philosophy is do no harm, help fellow man, and have a little fun.”

“My favorite hymn is “This is My Father’s World”.”

The family wishes to thank all of Helen’s many friends (too numerous to mention by name) who showed up to help, sent cards, emails and voicemails which Helen appreciated and enjoyed.

A special thanks to Helen’s sister Mary and husband Bob who were especially supportive during her hospitalization.

Guestbook Entries

Submitted by GLoria Lebowitz on

A beautiful picture of a beautiful person -- Helen was gentle, gracious, open-hearthed, lively, and unassuming ... and so very bright. She will be missed by many.  Those of us who knew her, even a little bit, will remember her with love. Her memory is a blessing for us all.

Submitted by Phyllis on

My life has been enriched by knowing Helen. Although I didn't spend a lot of time with her, every encounter, and especially one hike in particular, stood out in my heart and mind. Helen is 11 year smy senior, a role model for me for living graciously accepting death graciously. Phyllis Shacter July 11, 2020

Submitted by Naida Reed on

Dear Sue, Fern, Penny and all,

It was such a great pleasure to have known your mom! From my arrival in Bellingham in 2005, she was a vibrant walker and hiker, introducing me and so many others to the region's outdoor delights. From Helen I learned about the Gleaners, people who walked the fields to pick up the "missed" pieces of harvest that could be used at the Food Bank. The only person who ever asked if I knew how to play the kazoo was Helen, when she invited me to join the Raging Grannies. (I never got the chance, but that delightful invitation is a cherished memory.) She was always finding ways to serve, to protest injustice, to campaign for fair treatment for everyone, and these values were woven into her fabric, not tacked on for show. Helen put her heartfelt conviction out there every day...along with that smile.

For awhile Helen wanted to start a quilting group, and I brought my machine over to her house a couple of times to sew. Like everything else, I merely sat back and watched in wonder at the way she could match up fabric and manipulate pieces so deftly! It seemed there wasn't much she couldn't do.

The way she cared for John was inspiring. Her painstaking attention to every detail of his diet and health certainly added years to his life. What a love story they had!

One of my fondest memories is of a hike we took in Deception Pass with our renowned Hike Leader Helen. We got a little lost as we went up the side of the gorge. I think there was supposed to have been an actual trail, but we found ourselves on a steep, rocky climb. To be honest, I was not the steadiest of the group but I kept up with everyone and figured, if Helen (16 years my senior) could scamper up those rocks, then so could I. By the time I reached the top, I felt like I could use a little boost to make that last, big step. And what did I feel? A strong hand grabbed my backpack and yanked me up that last little bit, as if a skyhook had come down to rescue me. It startled me a little, because I hadn't seen our trusty Hike Leader Helen up top there, in a sturdy hiker stance, pole in one hand, yanking us up with the other, one hiker after another. And giving us each a big smile when we made it!

I remember thinking, "You GO, Hike Leader Helen!! I want to be just like you!"

After many a long hike we'd stop for lunch and start feeling postprandially snoozy, especially at altitude. But Hike Leader Helen, a nurse by training, had just the thing for groggy hikers. She would always pass around her stash of chocolate covered espresso beans for the hike down the big hill of the day.

Helen was always glad to see you, always said your name and greeted you with that radiant smile of hers, and she always took an interest. It was impossible not to love her. I am so very thankful to have known her. My condolences to your family, for I've had a shining glimpse of what you've lost.

Naida Reed

Submitted by Diana McKinney on

Helen was truly an inspiration.  She had a ready smile and sparkly eyes and a wicked sense of humor.  I met her at a church knitting group, and she made sure the group discussed current events, brought exercises for aging women, and made everyone feel comfortable.  She was passionate about issues and one of the most active women I've ever known.  She could also knit up a storm, and I think she had a different project at each meeting.  I recently had the privilege of ferrying her to some doctor and therapy appointments, and those trips were always the bright spot of my day.  What a woman!  The world is definitely a better place because of your presence.

Helen, I miss you. 

Submitted by Wendy Scherrer on

We all celebrate Helen's life and send love to her daughters. Every year she helped me to pot up baby cedars to give out at Earth Day, and I was always so happy to see her singing with her Raging Grannies. I so loved getting to know her when we attended church women retreats together and greeting people together at the church door on Sunday mornings. Helen is a beautiful bright star who will shine forever, may the blessing of light be on you and your family. 

Submitted by Wendy Scherrer on

We all celebrate Helen's life and send love to her daughters. Every year she helped me to pot up baby cedars to give out at Earth Day, and I was always so happy to see her singing with her Raging Grannies. I so loved getting to know her when we attended church women retreats together and greeting people together at the church door on Sunday mornings. Helen is a beautiful bright star who will shine forever, may the blessing of light be on you and your family. 

Submitted by Kate Grinde on

Dear Susan and Fern,

I am sending my deepest sympathies regarding your mother's death.  I did not know her well, but her smile, laughter, and kindness were always so comforting and infectious.  Bellingham was so lucky to have her as a member of its community.  I am sending love and strength and hope that fond memories bring you comfort during the coming weeks and months.

Submitted by Jacqueline Anderson on

Helen really enjoyed life, which inspired everyone around her to join in her positive loving attitude. I remember singing joyfully with her in the “Raging Grannies” as well as hiking with her while enjoying nature. She lived generously and gave generously to everyone. When I injured my back in a car accident ten years ago, she showed up with the perfect pillow she made. I treasure it today. May she live on in our memories, giving comfort with her beautiful smile.

Submitted by Leslee Probasco on

Helen was one of the first in the church to welcome and befriend me! I got to know her in one of our circle groups. We share many common experiences and values. A fellow Canadian! I will miss her sweet spirit.

Submitted by Jean Gischer on

I so enjoyed and appreciated Helen. She made time for me in her life and we shared many meals and experiences together. I especially remember a late August day when we explored Semiahmoo together and stopped at a picnic table and I asked about her life. She was such a wonderful role model! She told me of cross country skiing, cooking for a soup kitchen in Portland and her many years of activism. She connected  with my spirit and I shall miss her a lot.

Submitted by Trudy Cordes on

Tracy and I will truly miss Helen.  She was kind and loving to us and introduced us to the Raging Grannies.  We were happy to spend several holidays with her.  A more generous and caring person I have never known.

Submitted by Phyllis A Graham on

Helen was truly a lovely woman.  No matter when or where I saw her, she'd always remember my name and greet me with that wonderful smile.  She enjoyed life and those around her enjoyed it more with her.  We met hiking with the Bellingham Senior Center (which had a wonderful diverse group of folks hiking together!) and she coaxed me through many a scary (for me) narrow path with a dropoff that I truly believed I would be sliding down with my next step!  The Raging Grannies was just the sort of protest group no one could hate .  I loved knowing more about her through this obituary. My condolences to the family.

Submitted by Carola Anderson on

Having chatted with Helen and her daughter Sue a week before her surgery, my husband and I were shocked to hear of her complications and subsequent passing. The community has lost a lovely woman and I, a wonderful hiking partner. We shared Canadian roots and spoke of differences between character north and south of the border. Helen embodied all the kind and thoughtful attributes we associate with Canadians even though much of her life was spent in the US. We could all take lessons from her. 

Submitted by Annette Holcomb on

Susan and Fern,  I send my heart felt condolences to you and your family.  I feel so fortunate to have known your mother and enjoyed many hikes and chats with her during my time in Bellingham.  I appreciated her wonderful smile and her friendship and am inspired by her commitment to social justice.    I will think of her whenever I am struggling to remember the name of a wildflower along the trail.   

Submitted by Susan Richardson on

Helen was an inspiration and a model for how to live life well.  She was always knowledgeable about the natural world and I loved walking with her, as she could identify most plants; she also knew and had hiked so many wonderful trails.  I especially enjoyed the hike she liked to lead at deception pass, timed to catch the blooming native rhododendrums.  She was kind, gentle and thoughtful, and made a delightful roommate on our hiking retreat on Orcas and working on the calendar on the Stehekin retreat together.  Plants from her home and garden flourish in my home and garden now.  She has touched so many lives and will be greatly missed.



Submitted by Lorrie Yoos on

Helen was a wonderfully life affirming person. She clearly loved being in nature and being with friends. To have known her was a privilege.

Submitted by Ruth Broward on

I will miss Helen at Crones, but I will especially miss our sweet chats on Sundays at our church during coffee hour after the service.  She was so vibrant, such a great loss to all of our lives.

Submitted by Rebekah Snodgrass on

I'm finding it hard to believe I’ll never hear her soft laugh again. She was one of the most dignified people I’ve ever met. And she personified the concept of graciousness. I have only known her through the Raging Grannies and only for 2 years, but she informed my life with her courage and warmth. One of my favorite ancedotes about her was an incident she recounted as she was strolling about town waiting for a Granny performance.  She was dressed in full Granny regalia, apron festooned with radical buttons and a floppy hat with silk flowers. She said that a young Middle Eastern man was walking towards her. When he passed her, he put his hands together in the prayer position, gave a little bow and said "Revered Mother".  And so she was, to all of us. Her stature of grace and dignity was beyond compare. She reached out to others with genuine interest. That is a rare quality.  Rest in Power, Helen. You lived your  life well and improved the world for those of us still here. 

Submitted by gwin cooper on

Helen and I became friends at the Bellingham Senior Center. She was delighted to learn that my middle name is Ferne. Helen's friendship filled me with joy. I miss her. gwin cooper

Submitted by Lesley Keenholts on

When I remember Helen, I remember her beauty and grace, her gentle kindness toward others. My condolences to her family for their loss.

Submitted by Judith Akins on

With much sadness I add my condolences to all her loving family. Thank you Fern and Sue for sharing your mom with us. She was always do happy when she knew you were coming for a visit. The picture I have in my head is Helen with her newly died purple hair. She just looked so lovely and of course that ever present smile. As many have said I first met Helen as part of the hiking group in 2010 and from then on she was my inspiration. My last hike with her was on Heliotrope and dhe was relishing it since she knew it was probably the last time she would be there. It was very buggy but she did not complain. She tramped through the streams shen others hesitated all with a smile and determination set on her face. She set me on my my own path to the wonders of nature along the trail. There wasn't anything that she did not know about. I would always try to be within hearing distance of Helen's teachings. As I became more familiar with environmental issues in Bellingham I would look around and sure enough Helen was there. She was always learning, interested and ready to speak out for what was just. I could go on but many have said what a truely remarkable person she was. She was part of my life here in Bellingham even showing up at my neighborhood pool one day while I was swimming, I couldn't believe it was her. She explained about how she was having difficulty walking and so my neighbor had invited her to the pool and then they were going inside for a round of Table Tennis. I will carry Helen in my heart as I complete my journey here on Mother Earth and it was such a privalege to have shared this bit of time and space with her. Blessings and Peace to all her family and friends.

Submitted by Merrill (Bartle... on

Dear Susan and Fern,

It is with great sadness that I write you after learning that your mother passed away. I have fond memories of your sweet mother and remember going with you to visit your grandma, going to the beach with your family, and many visits to your house. My hope and prayers are that your memories, friends, family and God will sustain and comfort you and give you peace in the difficult days ahead. Will all my sympathies, Merrill

Submitted by Karen Wich-McIver on

Helen was a real jewel. I met Helen at Parkrose Community Church in the 1970's. Susan, Fern and my son's, Phil and Allan were in the youth group together. Helen and I did many, many church potlucks, meetings, etc together. We so hiked!, of course. Helen organized a group of we ladies. Soon as the school buses left with the kids, we donned our boots, carpooled and then asked, 'Helen, where to?'

Submitted by Karen Wich-McIver on

As we hiked, the conversations always got around to food-the newest recipe, who was making cookies for a school function, who was canning what, etc. This of course, always brought the question, 'How much further until lunch break, Helen?' Her pat answer - ALWAYS was 'Oh just around the next bend', which usually meant another mile! I haven't seen Helen in many years now, but those and other memories of my time with her, always bring a smile and chuckle. Susan and Fern, hard as it is to lose a loved one, especially mother, as she will always be carried in your hearts, know she will also be in the hearts of all those she touched. It was an honor to be her friend. Love to you both, Karen

Submitted by Ginny Eaton on

Helen was a joy to hike and visit with on the wonderful trail systems in Bellingham.  Her smile was always there for all the new and old members of the Bellingham Senior Center Hiking Group.  After her 80th birthday, she came to the hike with a new purple strip in her hair and a sparkle in her eye, to celebrate the new decade! It is really special to me to see all the wonderful comments about her life, and to learn more about all of her accomplishments.  My heart goes out to her family, friends, and all whose lives she touched.  

Submitted by Anne Richardson... on

Helen Blessed our lives at Crone Meetings.  She brought the Raging Grannies to the Crone Counsel national meeting in September, 2018.She led meetings, she led exercises at camp.  What an amazing vibrant woman with engaging energy that radiated to all.  She will be missed.  Peace and comf ort to all who knew her.  Love to family and friends.  We share our sympathy.

Submitted by Ellen Murphy on

Hello dear family and friends of Helen McLeod, from one who just now learned that Helen had walked on.  I never sang with her, hiked with her, was in a group with her, socialized or did a project with her.  If I were to ask how then can it be that I feel such heart rending loss and the answer immediately appears in the form of her beautiful smile, full of light, sisterly (with a tiny bit of motherly--though almost the same age) and full of loving support and interest in me and my life in peace action. It's really quite indescribable, the way it felt, as though we'd been comrades forever, as though she'd always been there with me. I can only hope that my appreciation and joy in Helen's Raging Grannie singing, and just to bump into her at the Coop or such, was felt by her, in the beauty of the ordinary, unembellished, authentic way that I felt hers.

Submitted by Kit Zinn on

I only had the pleasure of meeting Helen at the Crones retreat in Birch Bay. What a delight ❤️ Her Joyfilled  bigger than Life presence filled the room and all the hearts within it with a Light of Love, Energy to Express oneself more fully with fun and respect for self and others. She definitely elevated the vibrational base level of the event. I had looked forward to seeing her again. For her family Thank You for sharing her. She will never be far away and always in your hearts. Watch for signs of her. There will be many that will bring comfort, peace and Joy at just the right moments.

Submitted by Jackie & Betsy on

Susan & Fern- Your mom was one of my mom's dearest friends. Nursing, hiking, couples times with your dad and Bill, lots of years with many incredible memories. We were so sad to hear of her passing as she still had a lot to say and do. One of the kindest people I have ever known, and someone who truly walked the walk. Please know we are thinking of you & will very much miss Helen McCleodia of Arabia.  Betsy Findtner & Jackie Wheeler

PS- Would love a little more info on her church for a donation to day shelter (bfindtner@yahoo)

Submitted by Liz Hjelmseth on

I just loved Helen. It was a pure and beautiful thing. How lucky I was to know her. I will hold her in my heart forever.

Echo. I have to echo Liz Hjelmseth and say, I just loved Helen. I talked with Helen about writing, and once read some of her memoir pieces she wrote for her family. In true Helen fashion, she thanked me for urging her to write more, but was a bit noncommittal. I knew why. She continued to fill her days and evenings with people and service, including making marvelous soups to share, so she didn't have time to spare. I will miss her deeply.

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