On March 28, 2021, Helen Morey Williams Hill died gracefully in her sleep, in her San Diego home, with her beloved family nearby. She was 106 years, one day, and one hour old. Helen was born on March 26, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of
Sophie Baker Williams and Arthur H. Williams. Her mother died three years later during the 1918 flu epidemic and this event had an impact on the rest of her life, inspiring a spirit of gentle inquiry, reflection, self-perception, a host of beautifully
crafted essays and memoirs, and a determination to live fully and well. (And for a very long time.) It no doubt was also a factor in Helen's full-hearted embracing of her family and friends. Indeed, many of those she encountered during her life became
part of a vibrant and loving community that cannot help but strive to follow her shining example. After her mother's death, Helen moved with her father and younger brother, Bradley, to Taunton, Massachusetts, to be closer to family. Her older brother,
Edward, lived with aunts nearby. Her frugal, no-nonsense New England upbringing proved a perfect foil for her open mind, beautiful laugh and ability to love. Helen's education set the stage for her life as a writer and teacher. She earned a bachelor of
arts degree from Wheaton College in 1936, and a master of arts from Brown University the following year. It was during graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana that she fell in love with fellow student Donald L. Hill. The two married in
1941 and spent their honeymoon biking and camping all over Cape Cod. They spent the War years in Washington, DC, where Don was a cryptographer in the Navy, working nights. When she went into labor with their first child, Rebecca, Helen took the bus to
the hospital. After returning to Urbana, where son Anthony was born, Helen and Don moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1948 and quickly became part of the brilliant and curious community of young writers and teachers at the University of Michigan. Sons
Richard and Alan completed the family and Helen devoted herself to raising her children in a rambling old house on Olivia Avenue which was often filled with music. In 1963, Helen joined the faculty of Eastern Michigan University and for many years was a
much-beloved professor of writing and of children's literature, serving as lead editor on three anthologies of poetry for children. In the 1980s and 1990s, Helen threw herself into a massive undertaking: transcribing and editing the diaries of her
seafaring grandfather, Capt. Edward Baker, whose writings offer a detailed view of life in a tiny, coastal Massachusetts town, on a ship, and in ports all over the world in the mid-1800s. The book was published by the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society.
Staunch advocates for people with mental illness, Helen and Don founded Trailblazers-a clubhouse and rehabilitation center in Ann Arbor-and received awards and accolades for this important work. After Don's death in 1998, Helen continued to write essays
and memoirs, and to lead a popular memoir writing group sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the U-M. For many years, she rented a summer house in Good Hart, Michigan, and welcomed her entire family to come and live together. These were
magical times. The house on Olivia continued to be a refuge for her children, grandchildren, friends, in-laws, and "outlaws" (those who had been part of the Hill family by marriage and wished to remain so, no matter what.) Holidays there were uniformly
joyful affairs, with good food (including spinach squares and The Goddamn Salad) and raucous post-dinner games. In 2014, at 99, Helen moved to San Diego to live with her daughter, Rebecca, and her family. In 2018, at the age of 103, she published
Searching for Sophie-her luminous, wrenching memoir about the loss of her mother. Helen is survived by Rebecca Bradley Hill (Dann Whalen), Anthony Baker Hill, and Richard Noel Hill, all of or near San Diego; and by Alan Williams Hill (Whitley) of
Nashville. She is also survived by five grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews, and a chorus of adoring friends...
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, editorial assistant on Smithsonian Institution: Ars Orientalis, 1959-63; Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, assistant professor of English, 1963--.
WORKS BY THE AUTHOR (this may not be complete):
(With Agnes Perkins) New Coasts and Strange Harbors: Discovering Poems, Crowell, 1974.
(Contributor with Perkins) Jared Lobdell, editor, A Tolkien Compass, Open Court, 1974.
(Compiler with Agnes Perkins and Alethea Helbig) Straight On 'Til Morning: Poems of the Imaginary World, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Crowell (New York, NY), 1977.
(Compiler with Agnes Perkins and Alethea Helbig) Dusk to Dawn: Poems of Night, illustrated by Anne Burgess, Crowell (New York, NY), 1981.
(Advisory editor) Pat Pflieger, editor, A Reference Guide to Modern Fantasy for Children, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1984.