Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Melanie Creamer email@example.com
PORTLAND – Helen Wildes, a dedicated caseworker for the state Department of Health and Human Services, who advocated for abused women and children's issues, died on Wednesday.
Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.
She was 82.
Ms. Wildes' story is one of personal heartbreak and triumph.
She grew up in Portland, the middle of seven children.
She graduated from Portland High School in 1946.
Two years later, she married Charles Doyle. Their marriage was rocky and short-lived.
She divorced him in 1967 and became a single mother of their five children.
Ms. Wildes dove into the work force.
She became a coordinator for Portland's Model Cities Program, which focused on urban rebuilding and creating social service programs.
Ms. Wildes' obituary, which will appear in Sunday's newspaper, said she helped start numerous support groups for abused women. She was also instrumental in starting the state's first center for battered women.
Her daughter Karen Ingram, of Portland said she taught women how to apply for jobs and dress for an interview.
She said her mother could relate to many of the women she helped.
"She knew what it was like to be a single mother and pull herself up," Ingram said.
"She had a hard life and she made the most of it. She was a fighter."
Through the years, Ms. Wildes continued to make her own personal strides.
At age 45, she enrolled in the University of Southern Maine and earned a degree in social work.
As a student, she also worked, volunteered and raised her children.
Fresh out of school, she took a job as a caseworker at DHHS.
She worked out of the Portland office for more than 20 years and retired in 1998.
Ingram said her mother loved her work.
"She loved being able to help (people) create new lives for themselves," she said.
Ms. Wildes' obituary said she was also a founder of the former 24 Hour Club, a support group for alcoholics in Portland.
Ms. Wildes was remembered on Friday as a devoted mother, who was there for her children.
Ingram said she always went to her mother for advice. "I went to her for everything," she said. "She was a good mother."
Ms. Wildes has lived at the Barron Center for the past four years or so. Ingram said she will miss her mother's dry sense of humor. "I'm going to miss her terribly. She was my rock," she said.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: