Helen Leatherbury Gagen
Helen Leatherbury Gagen, age 93, formerly of Riverside Connecticut, passed away peacefully at her Lenbrook home in Atlanta on Saturday May 26, 2018.
Helen Leatherbury was born on January 10, 1925 in San Diego. She moved with her parents Alfred P. and Elizabeth P. Leatherbury to Port Gamble, Washington on the Puget Sound. Eventually, the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland and then, with sister Joan, to Mount Vernon and Bronxville, New York. Helen attended Davis High School in Mount Vernon and Bradford Junior College in Massachusetts.
Helen was always an adventurer. She had several jobs after college in Manhattan working for Yardley of London and The Children’s Book Council. In her mid-twenties, Helen decided to head west on the California Zephyr train to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. From there, she took a bus to Aspen, Colorado where she remained for three years. The bus dropped Helen at the Jerome Hotel. She entered and procured a room and a job at the Grill in the hotel. Helen was a self-described Ski Bum and waitressed and worked at galleries during her time in Aspen. She said the jobs were designed to allow her freedom during the day to ski and to attend Aspen Music Festival activities in the summer. Shortly after she arrived, Helen was a contestant and Court member for the first Queen of the Aspen Winter Skol.
Helen returned to New York and married Norbert Gagen, a Purdue University graduate, on October 19, 1954. She met Norb when he gave a slideshow in Manhattan about his world travels – a fellow adventurer. After stints abroad in Paris, France and in Stuttgart, Germany with Remington Rand, Helen and Norb settled in Riverside Connecticut where they raised their son Christopher. While in Riverside, Helen worked various jobs including with the Presbyterian Church of Old Greenwich and the Greenwich Academy Lower School.
Helen was very involved, through St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in Riverside, with the Pro Christo Labarantes which raised funds for Catholic Medical Missionaries to benefit victims of Hanson’s Disease, or Leprosy. She worked tirelessly to help fund the drug Dapsone which has almost eradicated the disease worldwide. One of Helen’s most memorable moments with the group was seeing Mother Theresa at her mission in Manhattan.
Helen and Norb loved to travel and went on many trips with Elderhostel groups. After Norb’s death on November 23, 1999, Helen continued to travel with her son’s family and with her sister Joan, of Aspen Colorado. In 2007, after over fifty years in Riverside, she decided to move to Atlanta to be away from the cold, icy northern winters and be closer to family. She enjoyed travel and being with her granddaughter. Helen had a sign in her apartment that summed up her life: “Act Old Later”!
Helen is survived by her son Christopher Gagen, his wife Patricia O’Neil Gagen and their daughter Elizabeth Gagen of Atlanta. She is also survived by her sister Joan Leatherbury, of Aspen, Colorado.
Helen was predeceased by her husband Norbert, her parents Alfred P. and Elizabeth P. Leatherbury.
Plans for an Atlanta celebration of Helen’s life will be shared with friends in Atlanta. The family will bury Helen with her husband Norbert in Greenwich, Connecticut on June 27, 2018 after a service at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in Riverside. Details for the service and burial will be available on the Leo P. Gallagher & Son’s Funeral Home website.
The family would like to thank the staff at Lenbrook who took great care of Helen in her final years as well as the staff of Hospice Atlanta for their help. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a charity of your choosing.