BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Helen Mace: ‘Slow down and care for people’

“Been There, Done That” is a regular feature of the Marblehead Current in which local seniors share their memories and the benefit of their life experiences.

Name: Helen Mace

Age: 89

Birthplace: I was born at home in Marblehead, in an apartment above where Chet’s Video used to be.

How long have you lived in Marblehead? I have lived here my whole life.

Helen Mace helps mail the COA newsletter every month. CURRENT PHOTO / LEIGH BLANDER

What jobs have you had and what was your favorite? I did babysitting in high school and, of course, I love children. I love people. Right after graduating from Marblehead High in 1951, I started working at a real estate office in town, and I really liked that. When my youngest child turned 13, I went to work at Salem Hospital in the admitting office. So many wonderful people worked there at the time, and there were the patients coming in, too. They meant a lot to me. I welcomed them, took all their information and took them to their rooms. We really got to know the patients. Some you got very close to. I also enjoyed that job very, very much.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the world? It bothers me that people don’t have any respect anymore. Even the young people. I believe they should have their beliefs and their opinions, and it’s important, but there’s a certain way of going about it. They don’t respect teachers; they don’t respect clergy. I think it’s really the foundation of all our problems today. People aren’t considerate. They don’t consider the other person. It’s a “me me” society, which bothers me having come up in the Depression when we didn’t have much. We had each other, and we were happy to have each other.

Who is the most famous person you’ve met? I saw Pope John in Rome, but not to speak to. I saw Kennedy when he came to Boston but not to speak to. I met Sebastian Junger, the author. He wrote a book called “War” and made a documentary and my grandson was mentioned in both. He met my grandson in Afghanistan.

What is your most vivid memory from history? Oh, there are so many. There was World War II. We were in grammar school and we had the drills, what we were supposed to do when the whistle went off. Of course, there was the assassination of Jack Kennedy. Oh my God, my mother came from Ireland and adored the Kennedys, and I did, too. 

What is your biggest accomplishment? My family. I didn’t go on to college because I was offered that job in the realty office and my family couldn’t afford it. And my husband only went through nine years of school and he joined the Navy. He was in the Korean conflict. We have four wonderful, wonderful children. And six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, with one more on the way.Also, my volunteering at the Council on Aging. I’ve volunteered there since I retired from Salem Hospital in 1996. I was named the volunteer of the year in 2004. I have served lunch there and now I help mail out the newsletter. I still come to lunch every Tuesday. I also meet friends at the Muffin Shop every week, and there’s a lunch bunch that meets at Three Cod Tavern, too.

What is your best advice to the next generation?  Oh my gracious. Probably to slow down, care for people, help people. I don’t care if it’s just holding a door or holding someone’s coat.  Just think about other people for a change.

What’s your advice on living a long, healthy life? Keep active. You have to keep active. I still do my own housekeeping. I come to the COA.

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Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.

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