Helen E Gavin, 100 years of age, entered into the arms of her Lord on November 12, 2022.
Preceded in death by her husband John “Jack” Gavin; siblings Bernice Kraber, Mary Carroll, Rose Marie Newport, Dorothy Dolciato, Rita Toth, Norman Toth, and Richard Toth; children Jack, Thomas and Steven Gavin; and granddaughter Elise Bojack.
Left behind to cherish her memory are her children Patrick (Jackie) Gavin and June (Dan) Zalewski; daughter-in-law Melanie Gavin; grandchildren Lisa (Brion) O’Toole, Kelly Gavin (Stephen Satrazemis), David Bojack, Jacquelyn, Kristina, Cole, Kayla, and Kenzie Gavin; great-grandchildren Jack, Jamie, Katie, and Johnny O’Toole, and Stella Satrazemis; and her siblings Dolores Hornack and Charles Toth.
In lieu of flowers family suggests donations in Helen’s name to the Lake County Council on Aging 8520 East Ave. Mentor, OH 44060.
As the sun disappeared and darkness descended, Helen Gavin’s determination grew stronger with each passing night. Something had to be done. The community, particularly the neighborhood kids, deserved better. She wasn’t going to back down until that streetlight got installed.
Thanks to Helen a streetlight went up – right out front of the Euclid City Library, just blocks from her Euclid home on Westport Ave. It was just where she wanted it, for her neighbors, her kids and herself to feel safe.
Helen’s successful campaign was no surprise to her family. The petite 5- foot brunette with a contagious smile was a powerhouse inside with an unwavering willingness to help others.
“She was always a very strong-willed woman,” says her second-oldest son, Pat Gavin. “And she is very spunky.”
Born in Cleveland in 1922, Helen was one of 1o siblings raised on the city’s east side at E. 115th and Buckeye. Her younger sister, Dolores Hornack, describes Helen as spunky, determined, and friendly. “Bubbles – that was her nickname because she was just so outgoing,” Dolores says. “She was always a joy to be around and still is”
Dolores has vivid memories of the fun she had with Helen as a child.
“I remember Helen teaching me the jitterbug,” Dolores says. “Our mother would say we were dancing so much that we were going to put a hole in the living room carpet!”
Despite suffering from dementia for the past 10 years, Helen herself can still remember how much she loves dancing. It was a fortuitous passion, as it led Helen to Jack Gavin, during a dance at Euclid Beach Park. He would be her husband for 49 years.
Jack served in the Korean War as a Marine and then drove trucks across the country. Helen often ended up raising their five children by herself, with her husband out on the road.
“She was always there to make a meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner,” recalls Pat. “And if Dad came home at three in the morning, she got up and made him a hot meal.”
She was also a great cook. Her family fondly describes hearty roast beef meals, Thanksgiving dinners, succulent pumpkin pie and oh-so-memorable potato pancakes. Now, a grandmother to nine children and great grandmother to five, it was Helen’s cooking that continuously brought the family together and kept them together.
It’s Helen’s faith that often keeps her going. It helped her move forward through some of life’s darkest moments, including when her son, Stephen, was fighting for his life at 5 years old.
“She gave up her life at that time to take care of Stephen,” Dolores says. “Everyone else suggested they put him in a home. She wouldn’t hear any of that.”
Stephen soon died from multiple complications. “It was absolutely devastating for her, for all of us,” Pat says.
But Helen’s faith helped get her back on her feet and pushed her to seek out strangers in need.
“She volunteered for anything and everything,” says Jackie Gavin, Pat’s wife. “She was just so big on helping. She would help anybody. She would go to all the food drives. She would give food and clothing away as she spread the word of the Lord.”
Helen leaned on her faith when her husband, Jack, died in 1997. Then God dealt her another blow eight years later when her son, also named Jack, died at age 56 from cancer.
Now 96, Helen still relies deeply on her faith. Her determination and sense of spunk are ever present.
Propped up against the headboard of her twin bed, Helen synchronizes her arms to the beat of her voice.
“I don’t care if it rains or freezes,” Helen sings and dances. “I’ll be safe in the arms of Jesus, 24/7, Can’t wait to get to heaven.”
She tells her family that she’s going to write a letter asking Brookdale Retirement Center to host Christian services every Sunday, instead of twice a month. Pat and Jackie tell her they’ll talk to the management.
In response, Helen repeats in song and dance, “I don’t care if it rains or freezes. I’ll be safe in the arms of Jesus, 24/7, Can’t wait to get to heaven.”