Helen Louise Andrews (nee Sherman), our leopard-print wearing, sunflower-loving mother, sister and beloved “Nan” passed away peacefully surrounded by family at Sunnybrook Hospital on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, three days after her 88th birthday. She will be dearly missed and forever celebrated by her devoted and loving family.
Born in Toronto on New Year’s Eve (December 31st) 1935 to parents Irene and Thomas “Elmer” Sherman, Helen was the eldest of three children, followed by sister Joan (Bill Fisher) and brother William “Bill”. A proud “North Toronto girl”, Helen grew up on Duplex Avenue, raised her family on Deloraine Avenue and retired at her bachelorette pad on Rosewell Avenue.
Helen grew up playing piano despite wanting to take ballet lessons and eventually became a baton twirling majorette for the Lions Club where she met Fred, a drum major. They wed and started a band of their own, welcoming six children: Debbie, Denise (Eric Johnson), Donna (Chris de Schulthess), David (Karen Woolley), Darlene (Kevin Mallette) and Dana (Blake Hossack). Together, they built a close-knit family and had a busy homelife. Summers were spent at both grandparents' cottages on Boshkung Lake in the Kawarthas and at Balm Beach on Georgian Bay. Winters were equally active on the ski hill. Helen and Fred volunteered as ski patrollers at Horseshoe Valley and Pine Ridge Ski Club while their kids skied. During March breaks, the family loaded into an RV and drove to Disney World in Florida. Many happy memories were made together boating, skiing, playing Bingo and soaking up the sun on beach holidays.
For over 30 years, Helen worked for the Toronto District School Board. She was the head administrative assistant at John Wanless Public School, where all her children attended. Helen came home to make lunch for her kids, often tomato soup and grilled cheese, while watching The Flintstones and The Young and the Restless, before returning together for the afternoon at school. Following her retirement in 2001, John Wanless Public School affectionately named their music room in her honour.
Always the fashionista, Helen liked to don the latest styles and trends, taking risks in the name of fashion, not practicality. She loved a matching set, rhinestones, wild patterns and the highest of heels. She was petite, afterall. Helen felt best when her hair was done and nails manicured. Shopping was a particular passion, especially spoiling her family at Christmas and on birthdays.
Helen had a passion for travel and went on a trip around the world following the premature death of husband Fred when she was only 48 years old. Over the years, Helen visited many destinations in Europe, Asia, the US and Caribbean, always bringing back a funky souvenir. She spent a great deal of time at her kids’ cottages in Haliburton, Bayfield and Norway Bay as well as the chalet at Devil’s Glen.
Helen lived a full and eventful life, centred around the love for her family. A woman of few words, her lasting impact on her children and grandchildren speaks volumes. We always knew what Mom or Nan was thinking based on a stare, raised eyebrow or occasionally, an eye roll. Whenever the family was together, she liked being in the centre of the chaos, listening to the ongoing chatter, interrupting with an ‘eh?’ when interested in hearing more.
Mom/Nan was a constant in an ever-changing world, a quiet source of strength and support whenever anyone was in need. She attended every graduation, dance recital, swim meet, soccer, hockey and baseball game for each of her 14 grandchildren: Christine, Louise, Grace, Karen, Sarah, Kevin, Holly, Meredith, Jayden, Jack, Cassidy, Carter, William and Avery. Amazingly, Nan developed a special relationship with each one. She would celebrate and reward every accomplishment, however big or small. She was delighted to meet her great-grandson Callahan and enjoyed watching him learn to walk and dance.
Helen was her own woman; fiercely loyal, strong-willed and unwaveringly dedicated to her family.
We will think of her every time The Y&R is playing, when making a cup of tea or enjoying fish ‘n chips with a Guinness. We will remember her beautiful smile, sweet laugh and big heart. We love her forever.
A private family funeral and burial will be held in Helen’s honour on Thursday, January 11, 2024 at 10am at York Cemetery and Funeral Centre, 160 Beecroft Rd, Toronto, ON. If desired, condolences may be expressed online or memorial donations made to Diabetes Canada.