Volunteer's 'Ordinary' Life Earns Extraordinary Honor


Seniors' Hall Of Fame Taps Linthicum Woman

October 08, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

From the chair where she sits like a dowager queen, 95-year-old Helen Haslup airs her views on modern music ("a mess"), television ("trashy") and old age ("annoying").

Not one to mince words, Haslup alsosays what she thinks about her impending induction into the MarylandSenior Citizens Hall of Fame, an honor accorded seniors with a history of outstanding volunteer service. She is to be inducted Oct. 29, along with 49 other Marylanders, at a luncheon ceremony in Overlea, Baltimore County.

"You know," she says, fingering her pearls and the pink bow on her blouse, "I think this is a lot of foolishness."

Make no mistake -- it's not that this spritely, witty, opinionated lady doesn't appreciate the laurels about to be heaped on her head. She just doesn't see where she's done anything special to deserve this hullabaloo.

"There are thousands of people who have done wonderful things in this world," Haslup says. "When I first heard about this, I said, 'What in this world are they thinking about?' I am just an ordinary person."

In a way, that's true.

A former substitute teacher, Haslup has lived a pleasant, unspectacular life growing up in Baltimore and, for the last 58 years, living on two lovely, tree-lined streets in Linthicum. She married, raised three children and has made her own way since her husband, Charles, who worked roasting coffee for the Safeway Stores Inc., died 40 years ago.

Individually, the activities that form the foundation of Haslup's volunteer record are not that unusual. She's served in the PTA, worked for the American Red Cross, played the organ in church.

It's the magnitude of Haslup's contribution that is so impressive.

The resume of her accomplishments runs three typewritten pages -- and that's single-spaced. The chronology begins in 1913. That year, at age 17, Haslup started playing the organ and teaching Sunday school at the Lakeland Presbyterian Church in BaltimoreCounty.

She kept playing -- in four churches, -- for the next 60-odd years. She's also participated in choral activities and concerts,helped entertain at nursing homes and hospitals and worked for church service organizations, Bible study groups and a homemakers' club. Today, she's an active member of Lakeland Presbyterian and Linthicum Heights Methodist churches.

A vocal proponent of education since she started teaching at 16, Haslup joined the PTA in 1923 and kept active through 1943, when she completed two terms as president of the Linthicum Heights Elementary School PTA. She is a life member of the Maryland Congress of Parents and Teachers.

In the mid-1940s, Haslup was chairwoman of volunteer services for the American Red Cross in northern Anne Arundel.

She joined the Order of the Eastern Star's Glen Burnie chapter in 1954 and remains an active member. She's also still active in both the Linthicum and Patapsco Valley chapters of the American Association of Retired Persons. It was George Surgeon, president of the Patapsco Valley chapter, who nominated her for the Hall ofFame.

"She loves people and she's very community-minded," says Haslup's son, Charles, a retired University of Maryland professor and Linthicum resident. "Her mind is sharp as a tack. She likes to be involved, and she is a leader. If she belongs to something, she wants action."

To her great chagrin, Haslup has had to cut back her action agenda since she fell last February, breaking her arm and her hip.

Always independent, she spent three months recuperating in a nursinghome, an experience that opened her eyes to the need for volunteers to visit and encourage those confined to such places.

"It was verydepressing for her," her son says. "We couldn't even get her to eat."

"That was because they didn't put any salt in anything, and I have to have salt," Haslup says. What really bothered her, she says, "was that there are people who never have a visitor. I'm not saying it's the worst place to be, but it seems that there ought to be somebodyto visit and make them feel like they care for them."

Today, backin her own home, Haslup says she has no intention of sitting in a chair all day and letting people take care of her.

"I don't want to be a burden. I don't want to get down to the point where I'm no good to myself or anybody else. That bothers me and worries me a great deal. I want to be able to feed myself and dress myself."

She also wants to be able to continue her favorite pastimes, like reading and telling jokes. Haslup loves jokes. Did you hear the one about the headsof lettuce, she wants to know? Or how about the false teeth joke? Ifnot, you'll have to ask her.

Often, Haslup travels with "The Notables," an AARP musical group led by her son. "She tells jokes and brings the house down," Charles Haslup says.

"I try to keep them clean," she says. "No sex and no bathroom stuff."

No prude, Haslup nonetheless makes no bones about her thorough disgust for modern tastes and standards. "I think it's terrible," she says. "They've taken the melody out of music and the love out of sex. It's no wonder people have taken to drugs. It's a mess."

It doesn't have to be that way, she says. "I often think that if everybody would do just a little bit,just something for somebody else. . ."

That's what Haslup has been doing all her life, and that's why, wise as one may be after 95 years, she's wrong about her new award being nothing but foolishness.

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