Helen Pflaum, nature lover and numbers whiz, dies at 79 | January 8, 2020 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - January 8, 2020

Helen Pflaum, nature lover and numbers whiz, dies at 79

Her son said Helen Gannon Pflaum "admired tight writing. In person and in prose, she avoided unnecessary words. She was an exacting editor of her own writing and others'.

"She died January 1, 2020. That's her kind of sentence. Direct. To the point."

Andy Pflaum of Portola Valley said his mother, "a Yankee with words and by birth," had just turned 79 the week before she died — on Dec. 26. Helen and her husband, Bill Pflaum, lived in Menlo Park since 2017.

Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, she grew up in Tiverton, Rhode Island; graduated from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania; and met Bill Pflaum when both were graduate students at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., her son said.

For a year she worked at the Library of Congress. The couple married in Washington in 1964 and moved to Dayton soon after, Andy Pflaum said.

Helen Pflaum loved the outdoors and camping, and from the age of 11 through high school she spent summers at a Girl Scout camp in Massachusetts.

While living in Ohio, his mother "grew vegetables in abundance: tomatoes, sweet corn, asparagus, peppers, strawberries, eggplant, herbs, and more," Andy Pflaum wrote. "In California, without a garden, she was a regular at farmers' markets, meticulously selecting the best produce. She picked blackberries at a nearby ranch's you-pick field, turning them into bottled jams for the winter."

Outdoors, Pflaum was "a nature buff; indoors a numbers buff," her son said. She worked for H&R Block for 47 years, specializing in trust and estate returns.

After his parents moved with another son, Daniel, to Menlo Park, they "lived on the doorstep of Stanford University," Andy said. "With characteristic precision Helen scoured the Stanford calendar for lectures, seminars, music and theater performances, films, sporting events, gallery tours and more. Stanford community offerings became an important part of their life."

In addition to her husband, Bill, and Andy and his wife, Courtney Kingston Pflaum, Helen Pflaum is survived by sons Daniel and Gregory (Michelle); a sister, Caril Baker (Michael); and grandchildren Annie, Louisa, Caroline and Micah.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at St. Raymond Catholic Church in Menlo Park at a date not yet set.

The family prefers that memorial donations be made to Seton Hill University, Development Office, 1 Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601; or The Seedling Foundation, PO Box 1858, Dayton, OH 45401-1858. The Seedling Foundation donations support summer scholarships for students attending Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton.


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