Keeping her House in healthful order

March 28, 2005|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Helen House

Age - 70.

Occupation - Outreach worker with the Nutrition Wellness Department of the Washington County Health Department.

Hometown - Mount Lena.

Where would you see House? - As a septuagenarian, House knows the benefits of the exercise and health/nutrition classes she leads for older county residents - even though she doesn't look her age.

For almost four years, House has worked part time for the health department, teaching at the seven county senior sites - Alexander House, Hancock, Keedysville, Potomac Towers, Smithsburg, Walnut Towers and Williamsport. She visits the sites twice a month and added Francis Murphy Apartments to the list in September 2004.


House provides a healthy dose of exercise, fellowship and laughter in each class. She also leads exercise classes at Easter Seals Adult Day Services.

At a recent People with Arthritis Can Exercise (PACE) class at Francis Murphy Apartments, House delighted in telling how one of the residents, wheelchair-bound because of a muscular disease, started coming to the PACE class and can now go up and down stairs on her own.

House has had ups and downs in her life as well. She's been divorced twice and widowed twice. Her last husband, LeRoy C. House Sr., died two years ago.

"God never promised you an interstate. There are hills and mountains and some stop signs," she said. "You have to learn to get through them."

She has helped raise 17 children - seven of her own, eight of LeRoy's and her two grandsons. Dealing with the death of one of her sons in a construction accident in 1987 took its toll on her health; she suffered the second of two strokes following his death.

When that son's daughter was murdered in 1995, House agreed to raise her twin grandsons, while caring for her ailing parents. The twins will turn 18 and graduate from high school this year and are a source of pride for House.

House hasn't lost her sense of humor, though, and still finds it funny that at age 60, she quit her job at Reeders Memorial Home in Boonsboro to stay home and be a "mom" to the boys.

While House never graduated from high school, she earned her GED, motivated by the need to be able to help her children with their homework. She has taken classes at Hagerstown Community College and was proud when she received her typing certification, always trying to "better" herself.

While recovering from her second stroke, House made a promise to God that she would try to help others if she made a complete recovery. She admits it took awhile to find her niche, but thinks working at the health department is it.

House finds the support of the four other women in her department invaluable.

"They're just like daughters to me. I couldn't do it without them," she said.

House recently sold her home of 35 years in Mount Lena, with its view of Appalachian Rock from the dining room window, and moved to South Pointe, where she's enjoying everything being on one level and her "wonderful" neighbors.

Hobbies - "My grandchildren," she says without hesitation. House has 29 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. "We've got a big supportive family."

She admits the holidays get hectic and that last year she started shopping in August for the almost 50 family members on her list.

House also enjoys writing poetry and hopes to some day finish the poetry book she's started.

What does House like best about Washington County? - "I love Washington County, not only because of the people, but the view, the mountains, the lakes," she said. "We're a few hours from the ocean, a few hours from Western Maryland. I don't know - it's just home to me."

House was born and raised in Barrelville, Md., near Cumberland, Md., where there were only 50 houses, a one-room schoolhouse and a barrel factory. She then lived in Washington, D.C., for 22 years, while her parents moved to Mount Lena. She said D.C. was never the same after the race riots in 1968, and she and her husband jumped at her father's offer of a piece of land in Mount Lena and built a house there.

For more information about participating in House's classes, call the Washington County Health Department at 240-313-3200.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

The Herald-Mail Articles