Helen Sylvestre

Helen G. Sylvestre (Peck), “Nana,” of Little Ossipee Lake, Waterboro, passed peacefully on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 at home with her children and grandchildren by her side.

She declined quickly over the past few weeks following an eight year battle with Alzheimer’s disease that was diagnosed shortly after the passing of her husband of 56 years, Donald. Helen retained her spunk and desire for self sufficiency as well as the ability to recognize family and friends until the end. She never wanted to burden others. She was the most selfless person you would know.

Helen was born on June 28, 1935, and was the oldest of the seven children of Daniel and Germaine (Lamontagne) Peck. She had a keen recollection of her youth growing up on Storer Street in Saco. She loved playing basketball and raising kane with her friends. She told of how her and friends would skip school as early as kindergarten and how detention began at Thornton Academy shortly after her arrival. She liked to raise hell, “Good clean fun” she would say. She left an impression with her teachers who would comment as her siblings entered TA, “Oh no, not another Peck!” Helen worked throughout high school in Old Orchard Beach. She graduated from Thornton in 1953, and worked as a bookkeeper for Woolworths in Biddeford.

In 1955, she married her husband of 56 years Donald. In the early 70s, they opened Don’s Variety on Bradley Street in Saco and ran it until they retired. She would take care of her children, the house, work at the store each afternoon while spending early mornings and late evenings doing the books and baking desserts for the business. To say she was a hard worker would be an understatement. She never stopped. Helen always put the needs of others before her own. When her son opened a restaurant in Hollis, she would spend countless hours making desserts that were renowned by the community.

Helen and Don enjoyed life. Family was always number one. Summers were spent at their camp on Little Ossipee Lake creating memories that will always be cherished. Helen and Don enjoyed vacations and trips to New York, Vegas, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada as well as an Alaskan cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Each January, they would close their business and drive with the children to Florida for an annual visit to Disney, Busch Garden as well as countless beaches. They later built a winter home in Ocala that Helen and Don would spend weeks decorating for Christmas.

She enjoyed baking, gardening, crafts, walking, shopping, collecting Hummels, playing cards, seafood, jelly donuts, Natural Lite beer, caring for her husband, the holidays — when all the kids were home, her black T-top Firebird with red interior, Christmas music, laughter and time with the kids and grandkids.


Helen was preceded in deaht by: her parents; as well as her brothers, Dan and Bob; sisters, Margaret and Shirley; and lifelong friend, Joyce Petit.

She is survived by: her daughter, Sue and her husband Everett Greer of Waterboro; sons, Daniel and his wife Brenda of Lyman, and Donald his husband Dave of Dayton; grandchildren, Danny, Ryan, Zachary, Xavier and Ethan; as well as great-grandchildren Maria, McKenzie, Liam and Mason. She is also survived by: her sister, Joyce and her husband John McGee of Saco; her brother. Jim of Saco; and many nieces and nephews. Her friend since kindergarten, Janice Nunan (Keithly) who, even near the end would bring a smile to her face reminiscing of old times.

A special thanks to her in home caregivers: Heather, Denise, Melissa, Tammy, Charlene, Tracie and Renee as well as Diane and the rest of the Beacon Hospice staff.

The words Helen wrote for the first anniversary of her own mothers passing are very appropriate: “When you were here, we’re sure you knew how very much we all loved you. We loved you more than words could say, then God came and took you away. Our hearts were sad that day you left, for Mother, to Us, you were the very best. And we will remember you our whole lives through because of how much we all loved you.”

Visiting hours were from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Cote Funeral Home Chapel, 87 James St., Saco. A Graveside Service was held at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, at Southern Maine Veteran’s Cemetery in Springvale.

The family would like to invite all friends and family to a celebration of Helen’s life at her home on Little Ossipee Lake in the spring or summer of 2021 (date TBD due to COVID). In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift in Helen’s memory to The Alzheimer’s Association of Maine at ALZ.org/maine. Her smile and laughter will be greatly missed by all those she touched. Rest in peace Nana, Love you Mom.

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