Helen Wagner Pierce was a special person, an instant friend to all she met. To her family, as described by her grandchildren, “There is no one in the world like Grandma. She will be with us always.”
Helen built a lifetime of loving memories with her husband Louis G Pierce for 53 of her 92 years. Helen and Lou’s 3 children and 5 grandchildren were Helen’s dearest loves: her son Robert (Melinda) and her daughters Carol (Jim) Breeser and Martha (John) Schoenfeld with grandchildren Eric Pierce, Greg (Lauren) Pierce, Caitlin Schoenfeld, Kelsey Schoenfeld and Jack Schoenfeld.
Before marriage, Helen taught third grade. After raising her children, Helen launched a three decade career as a naturalist/guide at the Morton Arboretum. Helen was an early environmentalist, helping develop the Morton Arboretum prairie restoration project and the Glen Ellyn recycling center. As a naturalist/guide, she led both adult and young people’s groups on tree and bird identification hikes in the arboretum. Although she was small in stature, it took many steps to keep up with Helen.
Helen and Lou were avid birders together, compiling extensive life lists from around the world. We all recall how amazing it was to walk through the woods with Helen, who would frequently stop and quietly announce the name of a bird that only she had noticed calling. After a short look through the binoculars, she located the bird (and she was spot on each time we checked the bird book).
Born in Chicago, Helen’s parents were Dr. Guy Watts Wagner and Blanche Thomas Wagner. Helen’s brother Robert T Wagner lives in Sarasota, FL. Helen had a special love for Glen Ellyn. Although she was raised in Chicago and Oak Park, soon after marriage, she and Lou moved to Glen Ellyn, where her Wagner ancestors had settled in the mid-1800’s.
She was very active in the First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn throughout her adult life. She and Lou together volunteered with PADS and meals programs through church, and together they provided Meals on Wheels to seniors. Helen had a deep love of music, singing in the church choir, ringing bells and enjoying the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera as a series member for many years. She was an active participant in the Junior Women’s Club, Pi Beta Phi sorority, PEO, bridge groups, couples’ clubs and Gourmet dinner group. She and Lou were generous in regularly opening their home and their lives to others, from urban Chicago children to an AFS student from Jordan. Helen was happiest when helping and teaching others.
Helen died peacefully at her home at Brookdale in Glen Ellyn with her children by her side, electronically, and accompanied by her devoted caregiver, Lorna. In honor of Helen’s love of the environment, music and service, in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Morton Arboretum, Chicago Symphony Orchestra or Bridge Communities.