PORTLAND – Helen York’s family considered her the “whoopie pie queen.”

When her grandchildren were younger, Mrs. York would bait them with baked goods. It was an incentive for them to visit her, said Cathy Jordan, one of her 12 grandchildren. “If we wanted them, we had to walk over and get them,” she said. “That’s how she’d get us to go see her.”

Mrs. York tried to share her cooking and baking skills with her children and grandchildren throughout the years, said her granddaughter, Shirley Mitton.

“It didn’t matter how much you learned how to cook, she’d tell you you didn’t cook as good as her,” Mitton said.

Mrs. York died Tuesday. She was 91.

She came to Portland at a young age with her family, and enjoyed being on the city’s waterfront. She told Mitton stories of how she did chores for fishermen and they gave her food.

Mrs. York later worked in the fish markets on the waterfront.

During World War II, Mrs. York worked for Portland Copper as a welder.

“In her early 20s, she was like Rosie the Riveter. She worked on cars, she rolled her sleeves up and smoked cigarettes,” Jordan said.

She later worked in housekeeping at the Osteopathic Hospital in Portland. She told her grandchildren that she kept the doctors in line.

“She embellished stories a bit. She was great for that,” Jordan said.

Mrs. York was remembered Wednesday for her sense of humor. The evening before she died, when the hospice nurse asked how she felt, she replied, “With both my hands.”

Mrs. York’s hands were always busy, whether she was baking, gardening or tinkering with crafts. All of her children and grandchildren have quilted blankets she made for them.

“Whenever a new baby was born, she made a baby blanket,” Mitton said.

Mrs. York also had a woodworking workshop, filled with nails, tools, little pieces of wood and glue. She would collect things in nature and use small figurines to create scenes on pieces of driftwood, Jordan said.

“She always had a pile of that stuff for the kids to do with her,” she said.

Mrs. York was also an avid bowler. Her family will always remember the time she bowled the highest score but the trophy was mistakenly given to someone else.

When they said they could get it back, she said, “No, never mind,” her granddaughters said.

“She complained about it forever,” Mitton said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.