Helen Elizabeth Gordon
February 26, 1936 - December 4, 2017
On December 4th, 2018, Helen Elizabeth Reaux Gordon died quietly at home after a few months of hospice care. A long-time Northwest resident having relocated to Seattle from Abbeville, Louisiana in 1961 with her newlywed husband LeRoy Gordon, the couple had a wide circle of friends and family, both including other recent Louisiana transplants.
The funeral will be held 12/14/18 at 9:30am at Immaculate Conception Church in Seattle. Burial at 1:15pm, at Tahoma National Cemetery, 18600 Southeast 240th Street in Kent. There will be a Rosary Thursday evening at 7:00pm, with viewing beginning 5:30pm.
Helen was born February 26th, 1936 to John and Mamie Reaux. The eldest daughter of seven children, she took her responsibilities seriously. Her siblings were John Sr., Allen, Raymond, Donald, Peter Marcus, and sister Audrey.
Helen attended Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in Abbeville, Holy Rosary Institute in Lafayette (Class of 1954), and the University of Southwest Louisiana (formerly Southwestern Louisiana Institute), where she was proud to be among the first students to desegregate the school during one of American history’s most turbulent periods.
An official observation of this important accomplishment is as follows: “The arrival of eighty African-Americans on the SLI campus in September, 1954 marked the earliest large-scale desegregation of a previously all-white, public institution of higher education in the Deep South,” said Dr. Michael Martin, an assistant professor of history and coordinator of a 50th anniversary symposium in 2004. “SLI’s relatively smooth desegregation stands in sharp contrast to many later university integrations.” Another passage with a quote from Helen: “Helen Reaux Gordon, one of the African Americans who enrolled at SLI in Fall 1954, now lives in the state of Washington. In an article published in the Mercer Island Reporter in December, she supported her classmates’ recollection of the atmosphere on campus. The feeling of isolation was the worst, Gordon told the Reporter. “We were invisible. . .We never got the grades we deserved. Our hands always went up in class. But many professors would not call on us… No matter where I sat, I sat alone.’ ”
Helen was always outspoken. At SLI she became known for courageously self-identifying African-American despite obvious danger and despite her ambiguous physical appearance having deep red hair and a freckled face. When asked, she was clear; when she heard untoward comments toward herself or others, she was direct and forceful in defense, a lifelong trait.
A 26-year elementary school teacher with Seattle Public Schools until 2000, Helen supported and inspired an innumerable number of students. She took pride providing them discipline, confidence, and self-respect and they return to visit regularly. She retired while at Fairmount Park after sustaining a fracture to her hand.
Over the decades she was involved with several civic and governmental organizations, among them the Mercer Island City Council/City Hall, the National Education Association, the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) Seattle Section as a 1968 Charter member, Iota Phi Lambda Sorority Beta Kappa Chapter, and Co-founder/Grand Lady of the NW Knights & Ladies of St. Peter Claver. She was a CCD teacher at St. Monica’s on Mercer Island, a Cub Scout den mother, Brownies troop mother, avid soccer/softball/track & field supporter, volunteer, mentor and friend.
She is survived by her twin brother Allen Benjamin “Blackie” (Camille) Reaux of Las Vegas, younger brother Paul Donald (Shirley) Reaux of San Diego, eldest son Joseph Lee Roy (Eloisa) Gordon, Jr., daughter Bridget Renée (Vincent Oliver) Gordon, and youngest son, Jason Elliot (Wendy) Gordon. She has four granddaughters; Isabella, Zoey, Catharina, and Nina, and survived by many nieces, nephews, and godchildren.
She was preceded in death by her parents Mamie Labauve Reaux and Jean (John) Maurice Reaux, Sr., her three brothers John Maurice “Junior” Reaux, Jr., Raymond Eldredge “Red” Reaux, Peter Marcus “T-Set” Reaux, and her beloved sister Audrey Rita Reaux, whom she loved to call “Toughie”.
May God Bless Her and Forever Keep Her Soul in Peace.
Helen’s funeral was held on December 14, 2018 at 9:30 am at Immaculate Conception Church in Seattle. Burial followed at 1:15 pm at Tahoma National Cemetery, 18600 Southeast 240th Street in Kent. There was also a Rosary and viewing the evening before.