Born in the English seaport of South Shields, Helen was the second of four children of coal miner John Falconer and housemaid Mary. A nomadic childhood followed, as the family moved many times during the World War II years. She learned to make new friends easily. After studying dress-making and early childhood education, Helen became a Registered Nurse and State-Registered Midwife, riding her bicycle to help women deliver healthy babies at home. She served as one of the now acclaimed “Young Nurses of the NHS,” who worked tirelessly at the beginning of Britain's National Health Service in the 1950s, a time when the concept had a great deal of opposition.
Helen called nursing her “ticket to the world.” She emigrated to Canada, first working in a small rural hospital in Manitoba, then at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in the nation’s capital. There, in the early 1960s, she met Douglas J.C. Friend, a plant scientist and botanist…who let her slip away to take a job in Santa Barbara, California. Coming to his senses many months later, he flew out west, proposed in a taxi, they eloped, then realized they should tell their parents. Travel—for work, family visits, or adventure—took them to Europe, Asia, Australia, and Hawai`i, where they settled. Douglas taught at U.H. Manoa for 40 years, and they raised two children. Helen worked as a school nurse, tended a beautiful garden, and learned to play Medieval music on the recorder.
In retirement, Helen pursued her talents in the textile arts—weaving, quilting, embroidery, lace-making and other techniques, to create original designs that were exhibited and published. In 1986, she represented Hawai`i in “All Flags Flying,” a national quilt competition to honor the Statue of Liberty centennial.
Helen, almost 90, died at home in Lihu`e. She is survived by her sister Meg Falconer in England, daughter Mary Friend Williamson (T. Binney Williamson) on Kaua`i, son John K. Friend (Jerelyn Watanabe) of Honolulu, and many friends.
Celebrations will be private. The family hopes you will give yourself some flowers…and consider supporting Kaua`i Hospice, the Alzheimer’s Association, or your favorite arts group.
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