Helen Reynolds Jett passed away peacefully in her sleep on Sunday, April 2, 2023 at age 92.
Helen was predeceased by her loving husband James D. Jett; parents, Archibald and Myra Reynolds, in-laws who she loved as parents, James E. and Wilda Hart Jett of Houston, brother Lloyd Reynolds of Reisterstown, Maryland, sister Louise VanDoren and brother-in-law Max VanDoren of Las Cruces, New Mexico, brother-in-law Bruce Hudson of Houston, and nephew Gregory Max VanDoren.
She is survived by daughters; Tamie Conlee and husband Sam of Los Ranchos, New Mexico, Kim Luck Schrader and husband Ben of Kingwood, Texas, Jamie Jett-Walker and husband Carter of Albuquerque, New Mexico, sisters-in-law LeeAnn Jett Hudson of Houston, and Barbara Vaughn Reynolds of Reisterstown, Maryland, grandchildren: (Carl) Chip Conlee (Melissa Small), Ben Conlee (Leah), Mollie Conlee (Artur Sapek), Mackenzie Luck (Samantha), Taylor Luck (fiancé Josh Cantu), Kevin Luck, Cole Walker (Ajasha Silver), Hart Walker, eleven great-grandchildren, and eight nieces and nephews.
She was born on November 13, 1930 in Long Branch, New Jersey. The second daughter of Archibald and Myra (Mollie) Wolcott Reynolds. When Helen was 7, her father passed away from cancer, leaving her mother with three young children. Mollie supported her family as a single mother during the depression as a seamstress, a baby sitter, and a cafeteria lady at her children’s school.
While in high school, Helen contracted polio in her legs. She spent a year in bed and going through painful physical therapy. She fully recovered, and finished high school. After graduation, she got a job at Prudential Insurance in Newark, New Jersey. She commuted everyday on the train from Colts Neck.
Working at Prudential would be life changing for her. When she was 21, Prudential asked for volunteers to move to Houston to set up an office in the far away state of Texas. Helen left New Jersey in 1951 with Prudential and never looked back.
Helen lived in a two bedroom apartment in Houston with 4 other girls who worked at Prudential. They lived and worked together, sharing clothes and shoes when one of them had a date and playing bridge in their spare time. She remembered those days fondly. She told the story of how they would watch Peter Hurd paint the mural in the lobby of the new Prudential Building whenever they had a chance. Peter played his guitar when they would have house parties on the evenings and weekends. That mural is now in the Artesia Public Library.
In late 1957, a friend said he knew someone she needed to meet. He was a tall, handsome, brilliant med student at Baylor, named James Jett. Helen was 6’1’ tall, so he thought they would be a match. They met on a blind date in late 1957, and were married 4 months later.
They had 3 daughters in 5 years, her husband quickly growing a medical practice and building a home. They spent these early days of their marriage raising their girls, traveling with friends, and building a life.
James had a massive heart attack at the age of 36. After he recovered, they decided to leave Houston and his medical practice for a small town. They chose Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he was a physician at the NMSU Student Health Center and life moved at a slower pace than in Houston. Helen loved Las Cruces and the desert Southwest.
As usual, she quickly made a circle of friends. Joining the Faculty Wives Club, the League of Women Voters, and starting a Monday lunch group they called “Stitch and Bitch”. They eventually dropped the stitching for the latter, and met for long lunches on Mondays. They would often sit and talk 3-4 hours, running home just before their kids came home from school at 3:30. Their husbands called the group “The Mafia”. These ladies would be friends for more than 40 years, meeting for lunch every Monday well into their 80’s.
James died suddenly from heart failure in 1979 at the age of 46. Helen started on the next phase of her life, as a young widow with a large circle of friends in Houston and Las Cruces. She spent the next 40 years of her life traveling with friends and enjoying life. Helen played bridge several times a week, and was in a bridge club that stayed together until 2018. She was ready to go on a trip any time a friend, old or new, invited her. She traveled all over the world during these years with her beloved sister-in-law LeeAnn, good friends from the medical school days, and newer friends in Las Cruces. Helen loved people, a party and having fun. She made friends easily and kept them for years-sometimes a lifetime.
Helen became less and less mobile in her later years. Her polio slowly came back on the left side of her body, eventually losing use of her left leg and arm.
In 2019, she was unable to live independently and moved to an assisted living facility in Albuquerque.
Helen loved being a grandmother more than anything else, saying that if she knew how much fun grandchildren would be, “she would have had them first”. She came to as many of their little league games, high school musicals, swim meets, dance recitals and Math Counts competitions as possible. Her grandchildren could watch television and eat sugary cereal all day if they wanted. She was not going to listen to their parents rules or bed times.
Helen lived a long, full life with many friends and family she loved. She made the best of any situation she was presented with, and always had a positive attitude. She didn’t tolerate complaining or feeling sorry for yourself when bad things happened. Her sense of humor and friendliness stayed with her until the end.
Helen's Life Celebration will take place on Thursday, July 6, 2023 at 9:30am at St. James Episcopal Church in Mesilla Park, NM.
Our family would like to thank her long time housekeeper in Las Cruces, Cruz Diaz, and Mary Killings in Houston for their loyalty and kindness over the years; Nancy Giblin, Tana McGarvey and the staff of Sugar Hollow Assisted Living for their care and compassion for the last three years, and the nurses and staff of Roadrunner Hospice.
Contributions in her memory can be made to the Las Cruces Symphony, the Dona Ana Arts Council or St James Episcopal Church in Mesilla Park, NM.
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