Helen Mary Simrell, 88, died peacefully in her home Thursday evening. Helen was the proud daughter of the late Helen Sheen and Francis Cavanaugh of Scranton.
From a young age, Helen showed a deep level of empathy and kindness. Growing up, several stray dogs found a warm dinner and fresh water behind the lattice of the cozy sheltered porch beneath her childhood home, even if it landed her in a bit of trouble from her mother.
Helen always loved animals and had a strong instinct to take care of others, which is a trait that ultimately made her such a great mother. Even as she got older, she would go through snow and ice to make sure the bird feeder was full for the chickadees, cardinals and countless other birds that flocked to her garden year-round. This garden would buzz, chirp and hum with life in the spring, while beautiful flowers bloomed in fresh soil and hand-crafted rock walls. Helen certainly had an unignorable gentle spirit, that often-caused children and animals to gravitate to her. If there was plant in bad shape, Helen could bring it back to health. She gave all that she touched more life for having known her.
Helen was a woman of God and belonged to the woman's Nativity Altar and Rosary Society. Helen and her husband were active in the church and never failed to count a blessing big or small.
As her husband, Tom, wrote to her on their 51st anniversary: "The tedious path through life is really a joyful dance if you are smart enough to count your blessings."
Helen attended South Catholic High School where she met the love of her life - Thomas Simrell. Helen and Tom married on Aug. 9 of 1952 and went on to raise nine beautiful children. Helen and Tom cared for their children through everything and went on to love many more grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who all admired the depth and substance of their marriage. Helen and Tom were just as madly in love on their 66th anniversary as they were on their first.
It was in being a mother that Helen perhaps found her most important role in life - a role she loved every day of her years.
Helen's children can never recall having a store-bought pie. Christmas was full of plates of homemade cookies, Easter with homemade peanut butter eggs and St. Patrick's Day with hearty, green-dyed mashed potatoes. Helen was truly an incredible baker and cook who took great pride in perfection in her kitchen, and later opened her own pizza business - Cavanaugh's Pizza - which she ran for many years with a homemade recipe, fresh dough and a whole lot of love.
Holidays were always made special in the Simrell home and the love for the seasons was passed to each and every child from Helen and Tom. Santa and his reindeer were decorated in bright lights from the rooftop and a beautiful tree always held sparkling presents. Grandchildren and then great-grandchildren were always gifted with the memory of Helen and Tom's home during the holiday season - with an aroma of homemade pies in the oven and the old-fashioned Scranton Times Christmas tree always in view from a large window on the second floor of their home.
Helen was truly the heartbeat of the Simrell home and until her last breath cherished it, took care of it and filled it with a loving heart that gave life to all lucky enough to know her gentle spirit.
Helen was preceded in death by her husband, the late Thomas Simrell; and her son, Dr. Thomas Simrell Jr.
Surviving is one sister, Patricia Romano and husband, Leonard Romano, of Scranton.
Helen is survived by eight children: Kathleen Simrell, Waverly; Colleen Payami and her husband, Madjid, Waverly; Julie Ratchford and her husband, Thomas, Old Forge; James Simrell and his wife, Kathleen, Clarks Summit; Ellen Volpe and her husband, Charles, Waverly; Amy Mifka and her husband, Ralph, Scranton; Erin Simrell and companion, John Sember, Dunmore; Melissa Stevenson, Clarks Summit.
Helen is also survived by many nieces, nephews, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Grandchildren: Bridget Roberts and husband, Michael; Jason Ratchford and wife, Gisella; Sarah Stevens and husband, Jon; John Ratchford and wife, Melinda; Matt Ratchford, Abigail Ratchford, Nathan Ratchford, Isabelle Ratchford, Domenick Simrell; Joshua Ceres and wife, Christine; Shamus Simrell, Kaddy Simrell, Posie Simrell; Jennifer Wolff and husband, Daniel; Charles J. Volpe III and fiancée, Mary Grace; John Volpe and fiancée, Jackie; Chyla Walsh and fiancé, Jacob Cranman; Richard Michael Walsh and wife, Carly; Cecilia Walsh, Brogan Walsh; Maclain Walsh and wife, Gwen; Caroline Grady and husband, Jack; Aileen Walsh and fiancé, Jared; Benjamin Adcroft and fiancée, Nicole; Jordan Adcroft, Emily Pinto, Thomas Pinto; Quinlan Stevenson and wife, Corina; Kailey Stevenson, Lillie Stevenson, Eamon Stevenson, Rose Mary Salamone; Robert Mifka and wife, Yowa; Rachel Mifka.
Great-grandchildren: Emmaline Roberts, Amelia Roberts, Matilda Roberts, Cullen Ratchford, Makenna Ratchford, Halle Stevens, Samuel Stevens, Luke Stevens, Aiden Ratchford, Nathan Ceres, Ryder Ceres, Scarlett Wolff, Guinevere Wolff, Cordelia Wolff, Tristan Wolff, Charlie Volpe, Forrest Adcroft, Fisher Adcroft, Cadence Walsh, Liam Walsh, Atticus Walsh, Eloise Walsh, Satya Cranman, Dahlia Cranman, Teddy Grady, Aaliyah Resio, Gregory Resio, Gianna Salamone, Amya Mifka and Arianna Mifka.
Helen's family would like to extend a special thanks to Regan Funeral Home, Cadden Florist and vocalist Leslie Moran. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to St. Joseph's Foundation and the Parkinson's Foundation (Parkinson.org).
Family and friends may visit on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at St. John Neumann Parish at Nativity of Our Lord Church, 633 Orchard St., Scranton, Pa.
Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday at 9:30 a.m., celebrated by Monsignor Joseph Quinn, followed by interment at Fairview Memorial Park, Elmhurst. The family requests that those attending the funeral proceed directly to the church.
Arrangements, Neil W. Regan Funeral Home Inc. To email condolences visit the funeral home website.