Helen Walsh, wife of Project HOPE founder William B. Walsh, M.D., passed away on Thursday, July 21, 2011, at the age of 89. She died of congestive heart failure. She is survived by William B. Walsh, Jr. (son) and his wife Jane Walsh of Albuquerque, N.M., John T. Walsh (son) and his wife Mary Walsh of Bethesda, Md., Thomas S. Walsh (son) and his wife Catherine Walsh of Bethesda, Md., and eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Helen Hjordise Rundvold Walsh, was born to Stephen Torga and Malene Rundvold September 23, 1921 in Wildrose, N.D. Born to Norwegian parents, Helen was the first child in her family born in the United States. She was the middle child of 3 daughters, Inga the oldest and Telma the youngest.
Helen attended Montgomery Blair High School in Takoma Park, Md., graduating in 1939. She was a high-scoring forward on the girl's basketball team, a skill further demonstrated in later years on the Westpath Way driveway basketball court.
Helen was a 1942 graduate of Sibley Hospital Nursing School in Washington, D.C. She met Dr. William B. Walsh while training to become a nurse. They married on December 19, 1943. Dr. Walsh entered the U.S. Navy the following day.
Helen and Dr. Walsh are the parents of 3 sons William Bertalan, Jr. (1945), John Thomas (1948), and Thomas Stephen Walsh (1957). The family lived initially in Washington, D.C., then moving to Chevy Chase, Md., and finally to their home at 5101 Westpath Way, Bethesda, Md.
Until 1958, Helen’s life was focused on raising her children, running the household, volunteering on committees, and participating in Heart Association activities. Then Project HOPE (1958) and her third son Tom (1957) came along, dramatically changing her life.
Helen was a full partner to Dr. Walsh in his leadership of Project HOPE. She inspired the respect and dedication of staff, volunteers, Board members, counterparts, and donors worldwide.
Helen played a very active role in the SS HOPE’s 11 humanitarian voyages around the world. During her summer visits to the ship with her three sons, Helen served as a volunteer. She decorated the ship’s public areas. She advised the stewards. She accompanied Dr. Walsh to countless diplomatic and social events. Reflecting her nursing background, she was especially close to the SS HOPE’s nursing staff.
In the United States, she co-hosted fund-raising events throughout the country. The annual HOPE Ball in Washington, D.C. was for many years a prominent social occasion.
In 1978, Project HOPE moved its headquarters to Carter Hall in Millwood, Va. Just as with the SS HOPE, Helen played a prominent role. Working with interior designer Don McAfee, she selected the decor in each building at the HOPE Center campus. She persuaded donors to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts of furnishings and funds.
Her creative touch also influenced the landscaping of the grounds, and she worked closely with the Grounds staff. Helen was the driving force behind the creation of the HOPE archives chronicling HOPE's history from the early days forward.
Helen remained active in the Washington, D.C. area as a member of the Capital Speakers Club, the International Neighbors Club, the Sumner Garden Club, Columbia Country Club, and as a volunteer at Sibley Hospital and Landon School.
Helen was an avid gardener. Her Westpath Way gardens were her passion. She kept them nurtured and supported in the same way she tended to her extended family over these many years.
Helen wishes that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the William B. Walsh M.D. Endowment Fund c/o Project HOPE, 255 Carter Hall Lane, Millwood, VA 22646.
The Walsh family will host a wake in honor of their mother at Joseph Gawler’s Sons, Inc., at 5130 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20016, on Sunday, July 24, 2011, from 2-5 p.m. The funeral will be at The Church of the Little Flower, 5607 Massachusetts Avenue, Bethesda, MD, 20816, at noon on Monday, July 25, 2011.
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