Helen Charlene Deering

SOUTH PORTLAND – Helen Charlene Deering, a life-long Mainer and five-decade resident of South Portland, died Dec. 12, 2020, at the age of 76, in Freeport, after a years-long battle with cancer. Cancer ravaged her body, but those who knew her best will know that she died of a broken heart after the September death of her husband of 55 years, Daniel.

Among her personal possessions were two obituaries hand-written by Helen that, when compiled, read in part, “Helen was born April 5, 1944 in Portland to parents, Gertrude Loring Vanier and Oscar Vanier. When her parents divorced, Helen and her sister, Mary Jane, lived weekly at St. Elizabeth’s Home for Girls because Gertrude worked two jobs… Helen and her sister Mary Jane spent many years at St. Elizabeth’s Home for Girls. She attended St. Dominic’s school during the week and went home on weekends. They spent summers at the St. Elizabeth’s Camp on Little Diamond Island.”

“Helen graduated from Cathedral High School in 1962 and went to work for New England Telephone Company. She married Daniel H. Deering on October 31, 1964 at Sacred Heart Church. They bought a house in South Portland and had a son Christopher in 1965 and a daughter Kimberly in 1966. After her second child was born, Helen became a stay at home mom. As her children reached junior high, Helen went to work in 1981 at Maine Medical Center for 30 years, retiring when she became sick. She died.” That last line can be attributed in part to Helen’s love of dry, British television comedies.

Of her time with the MMC, Helen wrote, “She started in 1981, when the switchboard was really a board… with cords that plugged into incoming and outgoing holes to make the call connections. The patients’ names and telephone numbers were kept in a rolodex file and the discharged patient names were hand written by the nurses on the floors and delivered to the switchboard. Now they have a console with two screens… who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… many family members already worked for the hospital, so it seemed like the right place for me, and over the decades I worked with some great people.” Helen worked at the switchboard until one shift when she couldn’t remember how to turn on her computer. It was that night after a visit to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with brain cancer that had metastasized from an earlier bout of breast cancer. She never returned to work but her great friends at the MMC would still collect her for regular outings to the movie theater.

Helen had a life-long love of peanut butter sandwiches from her years of living at St. Elizabeth’s. When the communal dinner was not to her liking (their ghastly pea-soup haunted her for years), she would sneak down at night to make herself a peanut butter sandwich. Years later, she disliked when her fellow alumna criticized the roughness of living at St. Elizabeth’s. Helen felt the nuns did the best that they could with what they had and some children had it so much worse.

But it was this upbringing that convinced Helen of what she most wanted: to have a happy home and family. She was so appreciative that Daniel’s hard work allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom during their children’s formative years. She had a lifelong love of all babies and children. Even as her joints and back tormented her, she would get down on the floor to play board games with her grandchildren.

Helen took well to her cancer treatment and had many good years with Daniel. They both began to fade with age but they continued living independently longer than would be expected because she remained mentally sharp and he physically strong, but even those qualities began to diminish and in June of 2018, they moved to assisted living at Hawthorne House in Freeport. They were in separate wings but would get together regularly. It would be during one of these moments, as Daniel said goodnight to Helen at her bedside, that she would bestow her blessing on him, a blessing she had been using on her children since they were young, and a blessing her children now bestow on her for a final time: Good night, God bless you, may Our Lady watch over you, may Saint Joseph guide you, and I love you.

Helen was predeceased by her husband, Daniel H. Deering; and her sister, Mary Smith.

She is survived by her son, Christopher Deering; daughter, Kimberly Fournier, son-in–law, Peter Fournier; grandchildren, Michael, Tessa, and Samuel Fournier.

Visiting hours celebrating Helen’s life will be held on Monday, Dec. 21 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Conroy-Tully Walker South Portland Chapel, 1024 Broadway, South Portland. A Mass of Christian burial will follow at 12 p.m. at Holy Cross Church, 124 Cottage Rd., South Portland. Burial will follow in Calvary Cemetery, Broadway, South Portland. To view Helen’s memorial page, or to share an online condolence, please visit http://www.ConroyTullyWalker.com

Memorial contributions may be made in Helen’s memory to:

St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital https://www.stjude.org/donate/donate-to-st-jude.html

Guest Book