Helen: Three Tributes
Helen at Grand Manan--September 1991
Click image to view enlarged photo
Helen Manson Andrews
As nature bustles with new life,
we must say goodbye to our dear friend, Helen,
who died on Sunday, June 9, 2002. She so enjoyed
watching nesting birds and nurturing the young
from her bluebird trail. For over 40 years,
she nurtured the growth of our bird club. She
was a member of Ralph Waterman's original birding
class and a charter member of the club. The
list of positions she held is a nearly complete
list of every office and committee. She was
president, vice-president, field trip, conservation,
and education chairman. She submitted records
monthly and compiled countless months for publication
and inclusion in the club records. Both versions
of Where to Bird in Dutchess County were
produced with substantial help from Helen.
She served as the co-editor of Wings over
Dutchess and even reproduced it on a duplicating
machine she kept at her house. Each annual
banquet table has been graced with a favor
from Helen's creative artistic skill. Many
of us have lovely images of birds Helen painted
on slate, shingles and other items.
Her influence went beyond our
club through weekly articles on birding for The
Taconic Press. She was active in the Federation
of New York State Bird Clubs, editing the Region
9 report for four years, and attending many
annual meetings as our club's delegate. She
enjoyed Breeding Bird Survey runs in the Adirondacks
and Pennsylvania for over 20 years. She relished
a new kind of birding with the Breeding Bird
Atlas. By teaching bird identification classes
and patiently answering questions in the field,
she also nurtured new birders.
Yet with all her accomplishments,
we remember her most as a dear friend and birding
companion. No matter the situation, she always
found something about it to enjoy. She graciously
shared her knowledge of the birds and flowers
and butterflies. We will miss her terribly,
but we will treasure the birding skills learned
at her side.
Over Dutchess, June
I can't quite comprehend that
I'm actually writing a memorial for Helen,
a dear friend and mentor for the past 18 years.
She, and many of the older members of the Club,
immediately took me, a complete novice, under
their wings and shared their expert birding
skills and talents. Helen and I enjoyed many
birding trips in company with friends to Maine,
Cape May, Texas and Florida. We often recollected
the first time she visited my parents and me
in Florida. Helen and I were walking on a trail
in Brooker Creek Park near Clearwater. Helen
said "Wouldn't it be great if I could
get my first Limpkin here?" Not two minutes
later, as we rounded a bend, there sat this
strange looking bird wading in the shallow
water. Helen drew in her breath sharply, stopped
me cold and as we stood there stock still,
I whispered "What is it?" She said,
in astonishment, "A Limpkin." When
the magical moment ended, we stood in that
path, laughing, jumping up and down in gleeful
abandonment like two school children. We often
reminisced about that and the trip we had to
good friend Jean Beck's home in Texas, where
Jean led us on a fabulous Texan nature tour.
Helen was special in so many
ways. She was so robust and sharp, remembering
every detail of the happenings of life. She
nurtured her friendships with calls, cards
and letters, always remembering friends' birthdays
and special occasions. Her uplifting, enthusiastic
approach to life made it a pleasure for us
to share joyous birding moments with her.
In the past, it was not unusual
for her to call to ask my opinion on something
she had been inspired to write. Some writings
touched me so much that I asked her to send
me a copy. Although the following is a little
long, I would like to share with you one of
the poems, which Helen entitled "Some
Thoughts," written February 1994.
watched the bright sunrise fill the eastern
sky, and I thought - God said "Let there
I looked at the snow-clad mountains across our great river, and
I thought - I will lift my eyes
unto the hills.
I heard the music of the ice breaking along the shore, and I thought
- Make a joyful noise unto the
I looked at the pure white snow that covered the land, and I thought
-Wash me and I will be whiter
I heard the birds singing on a cold frosty morning, and I thought
- The voice of the turtledove
is heard in the land.
I watched the deer running across the snowy field, and I thought
- God made all the beasts of
the earth and saw that it was good.
I watched the water flow as the sun warmed the earth, and I thought
- Moses smote the rock and the
water gushed forth.
I watched the children playing and heard their happy voices, and
I thought - Jesus said "Let the
little children come unto me."
I saw the sheep huddled around the warmth of the barn, and I thought
- The Lord is my shepherd.
I came into my home and looked at my warm bed, and I thought -
Jesus was born in a stable because
there was no room in the inn.
At the close of the day as I prepared for bed, I thought - The
Grace of our Lord is with us all.
Such is the essence of what Helen
was. May the grace of our Lord be with you
and keep you, Helen. We'll miss you.
Over Dutchess, June
of the American Woodcock
Submitted in loving memory of
who first taught Peggy how to find this beautiful bird.
A tranquil evening lured Peggy
Fasciani and me out to our favorite haunt in
search of the woodcock. Habitat loss makes
this harder every year, for housing has severely
encroached upon the lea.
We waited for the pastel sunset to fade, as a large and mostly white
skunk ambled along the path and into the bushes. Dusk thickened, images
softened and quiet settled around us like a snowfall. And then it came:
the "peent, peent" of a woodcock calling from the meadow.
When we moved closer to his cry, to our astonishment, right there,
in full view on the edge of a bare patch, was the bird. Weaving, bobbing
and surprisingly upright, he tilted his stiletto bill toward us. His
apricot chest and dark patterns revealed him to be, indeed, a most
But not one to rest upon mere
appearance, he now set about an unforgettable
aerial display. A timeless yearning for a mate,
hard-wired into his DNA, lifted him aloft in
a dizzying spiral. As his rapid wings beat
in the climb, a fluttering kind of music sounded,
as if he were the quivering reed in an oboe
of air. Embellished with arabesques and chandelles,
his twittering flight curled upward to the
peak of his climb, when he turned, and with
a shudder veered into catapulting plunges,
zig-zagging like a lightning strike, until,
mere inches from the earth, he flared his wings
and set down as daintily as a sprite.
All those convoluted twists,
at amazing speeds, and he still kept track
of his launching pad, for he landed where he
had begun. What magic allows a tiny creature
to navigate dark heavens and find home?
A dozen more flights held us
captive as he scaled his sky-stage. Breathless
and riveted, we watched
him tirelessly embroider his dance with balletic swoops and dives.
Then darkness enfolded him. We left, knowing we had witnessed one of
Baryshnikov would have envied
Over Dutchess, June