Helen Rice Pickett, 88, the spouse of Reverend O. Eugene Pickett, died October 4 2017. After living with Alzheimer’s disease for seven years, her death at home was peaceful, with her husband and three daughters at her bedside.
Helen was born in Durban, Natal, South Africa, in 1929, one of four children of Congregational missionaries. During the Great Depression, she lived in a series of small towns in Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Oregon where her father served as minister.
Helen graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington in 1950, where she majored in biology and minored in music – both of which remained important in her life. She then attended the Chicago Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago where she met ministerial student Eugene Pickett, whom she married in 1952.
Gene and Helen went on to serve churches in the South during the Civil Rights Era including Miami, Florida; Richmond, Virginia where daughters Ann, Martha and Emily were born; and Atlanta, Georgia.
After 20 years in the South, the family relocated to the Boston area where Helen worked at Wellesley College and Gene became Director of Ministerial Education at the denominational headquarters. During this time, she was an ardent member of the Cecilia Society, one of the oldest choral groups in Boston, singing soprano and serving as its president for two years.
In 1979 Gene became Unitarian Universalist Association president and Helen became an integral part of his presidency. They traveled extensively both at home and abroad, and she is remembered for her hospitality, welcoming others who were far from home on holidays to the president’s house. When Gene became minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship in 1986 Helen joined the staff as well, and served on the CLF board. It was at this time that Helen was appointed to the UUA’s Hymnbook Commission. This six-year project produced Singing the Living Tradition.
After retiring in 1991, Helen and Gene moved to Cape Cod. While in retirement, she edited Rejoice Together and co-edited For All That Is Our Life for Skinner House press and remained active in the League of Women Voters and her local UU church.
Notes of condolence may be sent to the Rev. O. Eugene Pickett, 912 Main Street, #201, Chatham, MA 02633-2746.