Helen C. Dietze, formerly of Chadds Ford

Helen C. Dietze, formerly of Chadds Ford, died suddenly on Aug. 21.

Helen C. Dietze

Helen was born in Durham, N.C. in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression. The youngest daughter of a Methodist minister, she moved to a new parish every few years - from Durham, to Dunn, then Beaufort, Sanford, New Bern, Siler City, Andalusia, Benson, and later Greensboro and Chapel Hill — accumulating lifelong friends along the way. Like her mother who held Masters Degrees in Latin and Greek, Helen had a heightened intellectual curiosity and remained, throughout her life, a voracious learner, completing high school at fifteen and going on to graduate from the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina in 1949 at only nineteen.

She married her first husband, the late L. Brandt Allen with whom she had two sons, L. Brandt Allen, Jr. and H. Gordon Allen, and joined the large and lively Allen family. Widowed at twenty-nine, she later married her second husband, the late Richard H. Dietze, with whom she shared a daughter Jane A. Dietze.

Besides her passion for education, Helen loved to travel. In 1968, the family moved from Gladwyn, Pennsylvania to Tokyo, Japan, where they lived for several years as expatriates with the Dupont Company. They immersed themselves in the local culture, traveling throughout Japan and Asia before moving back to the United States to Wilmington, Delaware. Helen lived in Wilmington (and later Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania) for 27 years. In Wilmington, Helen founded and filled (through numerous trips to England and Scotland) an English antique store and later worked as a real estate agent. From her Wilmington home base, she traveled frequently and remained agile by continuing her studies in art history and French, playing tennis, skiing, sailing the Chesapeake on the family's 32-foot sloop Kona, cultivating an enormous vegetable garden, and baking hundreds of applesauce cakes for Christmas gifts. She was an inveterate collector of Chinese export porcelain and plastic bags. She was a member of Greenville Country Club, the Junior League of Wilmington, Delaware, and a parishioner of Christ Church in Wilmington.

When Helen was widowed a second time with the loss of her husband Richard, she established herself as a contributor to the global community. She worked in Thailand with Save the Children, aiding Laotian refugees. In 1993, at the age of sixty-five, she joined the Peace Corps and moved to Pobè, Benin in north-west Africa where she supported local communities in eradicating the guinea worm parasite from their water supplies.

After three years in French-speaking Africa, Helen moved to Aix-en-Provence for two years to continue her French language study and indulge her Francophilia. Upon returning to Chadds Ford, she persisted in her efforts, unsuccessfully, to supplant her elegant southern accent with a French one through French language immersion at Middlebury College for two summers. With her heavy southern drawl, Helen taught English to recent immigrants and, unflaggingly curious, spent many seasons studying abroad in Florence, Italy, at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at Oxford University in England. In 2002, Helen relocated to Washington, DC to be near her granddaughters, then relocated again in 2006 to New York City with them. In both Washington and Manhattan, Helen often accompanied her granddaughters to playdates, led them on outings to the many museums, and authoritatively taught the girls proper table manners. In New York, as in all her other homes, Helen made lifelong friends and boldly took part in the culture of the city - visiting art museums, attending the symphony, theater, and the opera.

Helen settled in Providence, Rhode Island in 2014, once again to be near her daughter and grandchildren. She worked out three days a week with a personal trainer and attended outings to the theater and symphony among other events. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, she participated in several medical studies in an effort to find a cure.

She is survived by her children, L. Brandt Allen, Jr., H. Gordon Allen, and Jane A. Dietze, her beloved granddaughters Emerson Rains and Hayden Rains, her daughters-in-law Paula Allen and Robin Rains, and her many nieces and nephews.

She was a magnificent woman, always full for life. We miss her.

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