Helen in a word? “Family”
Helen Galgano was born on December 4th, 1927.
She belonged to a very strong, Italian, Catholic family of 10 children (4 brothers and 5 sisters all now with our Lord) in Brooklyn, NY. Helen was the youngest. When her mom became ill, Helen, the only child still at home, quit high school to care for her mother until she died. Her father passed away six months after her mother. Her sister Virginia took Helen in while Helen attended secretarial school so she could take care of herself. Helen started a secretarial job at Dell Publishing Company, one of the largest paperback publishers at the time, where she would prosper. Always with a quick wit and retort and an infectious smile, Helen was loved.
In 1946, when she was 18 and working at Dell Publishing, Helen attended an American Legion event for the servicemen who had come back from the war. That is where she met a handsome war veteran three years her senior, and the love of her life, Nick Martinetti. When asked for the secret to their 72 years of marriage together, Helen would tilt her head and with a subtle grin, reply, “I guess it was because I could not drive,” inferring she was dependent on Nick. However, it was obvious to anyone who knew them that they relied on one another.
After they dated for two years, Nick and Helen became a family of their own in 1948. Helen continued working for Dell Publishing. Although they were young, Nick and Helen desperately wanted to grow their family with children. They waited 8 long years before they decided to adopt their first child, 2-year-old Andrea, from the Angel Guardian Home, a Catholic orphanage in Brooklyn. Helen wanted to name their daughter after St. Anne-de-Beaupré, whose shrine resides in Quebec and for whom many miracles of healing the sick and disabled were attributed. Helen stopped working to raise Andrea. Adopting a second child proved to be more difficult but they wanted to have more children. So soon after, through the help of the Angel Guardian Home, they adopted a two year old Italian boy from a Catholic orphanage in Turin, Italy and named their son John, after Nick’s father.
When Nick’s father passed, Nick inherited his father’s small trucking business. Nick was a member of the Teamsters union which provided generous benefits and security for his family. Nick could not continue working with the union and run the trucking business as well. But Helen could run the business. And so she did, with the help of her sister Lucy. Just like at Dell Publishing, Helen loved working with people.
Helen ran the business with the help of her family for 15 years until Nick retired. Each year, Nick would take off time from his work and run the business so Helen could travel with the “Vagabonds.” The Vagabonds were a group of Helen’s friends and family who wanted to explore the world. They travelled across the globe to spots like China, Japan, Australia, Europe and more.
They moved to Howard Beach, a suburb of Queens, into a neighborhood where many of their family lived. Life was good. Retirement was great. Helen, the consummate Italian chef, always loved cooking for family and friends and having them at table often to enjoy each other’s company. She was able to do that more now. She also had time to continue her passions for travel and reading. She loved being close by family which included many wonderful nieces, nephews and cousins. But after some time, they realized Nick’s parents in Boca Raton were needing help in their old age and Helen and Nick wanted to be close by them. So they moved from the New York they had only known to Boca Raton in the early 90s.
Not long after coming to Florida, Nick and Helen took on the responsibility of parenting again. Their 5-year-old grandson, Jeffrey, came to live with them when they were in their 70s. They would raise him. In their elder years they took their grandchildren Jeffrey and Sandra all over and, like children themselves, loved to explore Sea World, Busch Gardens and Disney World with them.
Helen’s love of learning, reading and her faith drew her to Bible study. She attended Bible study at St Joan of Arc for almost two decades and almost as long at St Paul’s Lutheran Church down the street. Although Helen did not always agree with her Bible study companions, she did not draw distinctions because as she said, she knew “they all loved God.” People in her life loved being with her because of her humor, quick wit, and questioning mind. They loved her even more, though, for her warmth and concern for E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. Nothing passed by Helen. She read people well. Many of us can tell of long talks she would have with us out of concern, the contents of which she never shared with others.
When hard times fell upon Nick and Helen in their old age, she put her trust in God. And her Father responded through the generosity of the family she had always cherished. Her older brother Albert and sister-in-law Louise welcomed them into their home as did their children. They cared for one another. Cousins, nieces and nephews and their daughter-in law, Cheryl, looked out for their elders. Helen’s niece Linda and her husband Carlos became their aunt and uncle’s advocate as Nick and Helen needed more help navigating the health care system and other matters. Her daughter-in-law moved into Albert’s and Louise’s home at the invitation of family to help care for Helen and Nick and Louise. When Albert, and later Louise passed, it is family that remained committed to them as they, Nick and Helen, had been there for family before. Helen passed in the family home of her brother Albert and his wife. She was attended to until her last day by her devoted daughter-in-law, Cheryl. Helen took her last breathe with her husband Nick by her side.
Helen and her family, by their actions throughout their lives, reflected the love that God has for us. Our family, our friend, our matriarch, Helen, our dear, sweet Helen, will be missed.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 AM on Monday, January 4th at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton. Entombment will follow at the Boca Raton Mausoleum.
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