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Mary Edna (O'Doherty) Helfer

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Waltham, MA 02453
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Memories & Candles

“I was saddened to hear about your mom this morning. My mother, Rita Echt told me. She cared a lot about both of your parents, as did my father,...Read More »
1 of 18 | Posted by: Linda Echt - Watertown, MA

“Our family will always cherish the connection to your family. Mary Edna was there for us always. She showed up for the good times and for the bad...Read More »
2 of 18 | Posted by: Laura Fulginiti - Phoenix, AZ

“Mary Edna was a beautiful person! Her love of family & friends was inspirational. We went through many happy and sad life events together. Her...Read More »
3 of 18 | Posted by: Peggy Kingry - East Lansing, MI

“We are so sad and sorry to hear about Mary Edna. The Helfers helped me both personally and professionally. I have such fond memories of them. I loved...Read More »
4 of 18 | Posted by: Roshni Kulkarni - Okemos, MI

“I remember Mary Edna a a wonderful friend and faculty wife as we all worked to build a new medical school and raise our young families in East...Read More »
5 of 18 | Posted by: Claire Kohrman - Chicago, IL

“Mary Edna was a Falmouth friend and a member of my bridge group. We had many enjoyable games together over the past few years. Mary Edna was...Read More »
6 of 18 | Posted by: Skip McCormack - East Falmouth, MA

“Thinking of you and joining you in remembering your mom. She was a very special woman who I had the great pleasure to work for. She was a humane...Read More »
7 of 18 | Posted by: Emily Dalley - East Lansing, MI

“Sad to hearGood friends from the old days. Will there be any service here in Lansing. Old friends asking .Don Kaufman ”
8 of 18 | Posted by: A friend

“To the family and friends of Mary Edna and Ray,They are two persons that Jim and I most admired. Both were exemplary employees of Michigan State...Read More »
9 of 18 | Posted by: A friend

“Mary Edna and Ray are two persons that Jim and I most admired. Both were exemplary employees of Michigan State University. They live in our...Read More »
10 of 18 | Posted by: Kay Trosko - Okemos, MI

“to the Helfer family, Your parents were amazing people. I had the pleasure of working with both of them at MSU. Dr. Helfer took care of my daughter...Read More »
11 of 18 | Posted by: Kim Camp - East Lansing, MI

“We'll remember our weekly dinners, of which Mary Edna was a special part.May the Lord bless you and keep you.May the Lord make his face to shine upon...Read More »
12 of 18 | Posted by: Dale and Paul Kapp - Teaticket, MA

“To my dear kind friend Mary Edna, we shared such fun and wonderful times together, I will miss You always. I know you are with God and your loving...Read More »
13 of 18 | Posted by: Patricia Pisano - Falmouth, MA

“My thoughts and prayers are with your family during this difficult time. May the promise in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 comfort your family. ”
14 of 18 | Posted by: A friend

“The best memories are of Thanksgiving dinners at her home in East Lansing. She did every thing with grace, joy and humor. A privilege to have called...Read More »
15 of 18 | Posted by: Kathleen Helmrath - Powell, OH

“Our family remembers Mrs. Helfer at Weston baseball games and Weston High School theater events. A lovely lady.Diane, Jessica and Jonny Young ”
16 of 18 | Posted by: Diane Young - Weston, MA

“You will be missed Mary Edna.Scott, Carolyn, Grayson, Chase, & Kona ”
17 of 18 | Posted by: Scott W Johnson - San Rafael, CA

“Mary will always be a special person to us. Many fond memories from our Bramble Drive neighborhood. She and Ray were especially great friends in...Read More »
18 of 18 | Posted by: Patrick and Roz SARTORIUS - CO


Falmouth – Mrs. Mary Edna (O'Doherty) Helfer, of Falmouth, died Sunday, April 29, 2018 at Maristhill Nursing Home in Waltham following a period of declining health. She was 81.

Mary Edna was born in Chester, Pennsylvania on April 11, 1937, a daughter of the late Edward and Mary Ann (McLaughlin) O'Doherty, both natives of Malin Head, County Donegal, Ireland. After high school she trained at Philadelphia General Hospital before becoming a registered nurse.

It was at Philadelphia General that Mary Edna met physician resident and Syracuse, New York native, Ray E. Helfer. They married in June 1957 and enjoyed thirty-five happy years together before Ray's death in 1992.

Following their marriage Mary Edna and Ray moved to Tuba City, Arizona where Ray fulfilled his military commitment as a government health service physician and later held the same position in North Dakota. After that they moved to Denver, Colorado where Ray became a member of the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School and became a pioneer into research in the field of child abuse. In 1968 he co-authored with Dr. C. Henry Kempe the first major work in the field, "The Battered Child". In 1997 Mary Edna, along with Ruth Kempe and Richard Krugman edited the fifth edition of the landmark research.

Following a move to Manhasset, New York Ray established the first child abuse program for the five boroughs in New York City. In 1973, with their growing family in tow, Mary Edna and Ray settled in East Lansing, Michigan where Ray continued his research and became a faculty member of Michigan State University Medical School.

At Michigan State University Mary Edna earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in the field of continuing education and worked teaching in the medical school. Following the death of her husband, she moved to Denver, Colorado. She worked for the University of Colorado until her retirement. She then moved East and became a resident of the Teaticket section of Falmouth on the Cape. There she enjoyed many new friendships and involvements in church and civic activities.

Mary Edna will long be remembered for her commitment to her faith, to her family and to her friends. As a couple, Mary Edna and Ray met life's challenges with grace, dignity and humor. They were serious about their work and counted their greatest accomplishment as being the proud parents of six children.

She leaves her children, Sharon Lynn Fagenholz of Weston, Ray E. Helfer, Jr. (Sara) of London, England, Christopher D. Helfer (Lisa) of Alamo, California, Jennifer T. Helfer of Weston, David J. Helfer (Heather) of Alamo, California; her daughter-in-law, Susan Johnson of Dallas, Texas; her sisters, Catherine Robinson of Seminole, Florida and Rosella Stock of Severna Park, Maryland; fourteen grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Mary Edna was also the mother of the late Jeffrey P. Helfer and mother-in-law of the late Robert Fagenholz.

Family and friends will honor and remember Mary Edna's life by gathering for her Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 5th in Saint Julia Church, 374 Boston Post Road, Weston. The following Saturday, Mary Edna will be laid to rest beside Ray at Mount Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to The Friends of the Ray E. Helfer Society, 350 Poplar Avenue, Elmhurst, IL 60126 or at www.helfersociety.org