Helen Sadie Hatch Burnap, the “Grande Dame of Water Street”, passed away peacefully at the age of 95, on January 23, 2022. Born on January 1, 1927 in Windsor, Vermont to Philip Hatch and Maude (Hastings) Hatch.
Helen left Vermont to join the “flatlanders” in Massachusetts at 17, and graduated from Bay Path University in Longmeadow. During college, Helen lived with a family and took care of their children for room and board. After graduation she lived at the YWCA and worked in Springfield.
Square dancing was a popular social event at the time and it was at a dance that she met the love of her life, Gaius Burnap, from Shelburne Falls. She took the train on many weekends and stayed with his family in their home on Water Street. Helen and Gaius were married on December 31, 1947, the night before her 21st birthday. They joined their family and friends at the New Year’s Eve dance and didn’t tell anyone that they were married for two weeks! Aside from time that they lived in South Carolina, where Gaius was stationed, she lived on Water Street.
Helen worked in the accounting department of Wirthmore (Feeds) Retail Store in Greenfield, MA. In 1960 she joined the staff at Baystate Franklin County Hospital as a Medical Transcriptionist and retired in 1993.
Helen and Gaius were involved with the American Legion and VFW for many years. She was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary and served as the treasurer. They went monthly to spend time with veterans at the VA Medical Hospital in Leeds, Massachusetts. Helen marched in many parades, gathered the vines for the wreaths that were made for Memorial Day, put hundreds of flags at the cemetery to honor former members of the military and provided the opportunity for many children to sell Poppies! A lover of nature, she enjoyed gardening and volunteered with the Blossom Brigade at the Bridge of Flowers. Helen assisted with providing treats for the Annual Rag Shag Parade and handing out water for the Bridge of Flowers Race.
Helen was very involved with her nieces and nephews in Shelburne Falls. Since she and Gaius had a TV first, the kids would be at their home every Saturday for cartoons and lunch. She helped with bike decorations and costumes for Halloween, attended school events, took them swimming and let them practice driving with her car. Her great nephew and niece, Dana and Ryann Stacy, were blessed to grow up close by and spend a great deal of time with Aunt Helen. As she had done with their aunts and dad, she attended many of their events and most holidays were spent at their home. Helen was adored by her many nieces and nephews. She was well known in the area and could often be seen walking to the store, bank or post office with a smile on her face and a pleasant comment for everyone. She was given a surprise celebration for her 90th birthday which was attended by family from across the country. Helen had a “bucket list” and several days after her party, family members went to Berkshire East and witnessed Aunt Helen zip lining with Dana and Ryann!
Helen was preceded in death by her husband, parents, and siblings (Ruth, Viola, Hilda, Philip and James). She is survived by her brother Robert (Barbara) and many nieces, nephews, and friends who were blessed by her presence in their lives.
Special thanks to “Helen’s Helpers” whose loving care and compassion allowed her to be at home until December (Bonnie, Carole, Cheryl, Donna, Josie, Lucy, Mariana, Pam, Pam, Sarah and Tsering). Helen’s neighbors were wonderful and a source of joy to her over the years. Thanks to Dr. Topolski and staff, Dr. Katz and staff, the Shelburne Falls Senior Center and Fire Department, Life Path, Triad and Charlene Manor. Donations in Helen’s honor can be made to:
Senior Center Shelburne Falls
7 Main Street
Shelburne Falls, MA 01370
A memorial celebration of Helen’s life will be held in the spring.
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