50 years later and now in college, Westminster woman fulfills goal

November 11, 1992|By Linda Lowe Morris | Linda Lowe Morris,Staff Writer

If it hadn't been for a war, Helen Reeve might have ended up in a college classroom a little bit sooner.

But just at the time that Mrs. Reeve entered high school, World War II began. Suddenly, working, not going to college, was the patriotic thing to do.

"The No. 1 priority was to win the war," Mrs. Reeve recalls. "All the women worked. It was the way of life. There were no men to work on the home front except older men or those who were frail. You'd go to the seashore, and all the lifeguards were female. All the bus drivers were female."

Her high school guidance counselor pointed her in the direction of a commercial program instead of a college preparatory one, so she would be employable as soon as she finished school.

"It was a beautiful commercial program," she says now. "But I always yearned for the academic. I was very disappointed I couldn't go to college. But during the war a lot of people were disappointed about things like that, and they just said to themselves, 'OK, I'll do it later.' "

Nearly 50 years later, Helen Reeve has kept that promise to herself. Since the spring of 1991, the Westminster resident has been working toward a degree in general studies at Carroll Community College.

"I'm having the time of my life," she says.

She began her studies with "English 101," a composition course, with a review of grammar.

"I have a lot to draw on to write papers -- a lifetime's

experience. But I needed to review sentence structure."

When she learned that she would have to use a computer to write papers for the class, she nearly panicked and thought of dropping out. But her fellow students saw her struggling and offered to help. They gave her the coaching she needed to get her papers finished.

For her next course, Mrs. Reeve took a class in how to use word-processing software.

She is currently enrolled in a Life Fitness course, which "stresses wellness -- diet, exercise and stress-management."

Mrs. Reeve has worked at a variety of jobs throughout her life, including one during her teen years watching for German airplanes in a Civil Defense tower on the New Jersey coast.

After the war she married Woody Reeve, a returning serviceman, and they had three children, Dave, Becky and Marty.

"I was very committed to raising the children, and I wanted to be home with them until the youngest was 12," she says. "I always did contract work at home as a typist. I never stopped working. It's a work ethic that I guess is just in you."

Her college career is the culmination of a lifelong love of learning -- a love she passed on to her children.

"I worked very hard to see that they all had four years of college," she says.

Her daughter and one of her sons now have careers in education.

In 1975, when Mrs. Reeve took a job as a secretary in the Education of the Deaf master's program at Western Maryland College, she bought a pack of flash cards to study sign language, even though it wasn't a job requirement.

"When the students saw my willingness to learn, they adopted me," she says. "I was invited to their homes to dinner and to parties."

She took three non-credit sign language courses at Western Maryland that not only helped her communicate with the students but gave her the confidence she needed to become a full-time student years later.

"It was already in my head to go to college someday," she says. "I just wanted to make sure I could handle the classroom. I didn't want to set myself up for failure."

Mrs. Reeve gives a lot of credit to Carroll Community College for helping the non-traditional student.

"The college has tutors and a career center and extra hours to use the computer lab," she says.

And her family is supporting her decision to go to college.

"My husband and my children are happy for me to do this, and that does help."

She plans to take just one or two courses each semester because she also does a lot of volunteer work and wants to continue to spend time with her family, including her granddaughters Carrie, Courtney and Brittany.

"You have to use good judgment and pace yourself," Mrs. Reeve says. "I like success, but I define success as having good relationships with other people and enjoying life.

"I think all things are possible. It's just a matter of getting your direction."

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