November 23, 1928 was an exciting morning at The Alhambra in Natural Bridge Station, VA. Helen Hope Chiles - Earl and Ellene Chiles's last of eight children - had just been born, and siblings Elizabeth, Lucille, John, Earl, Evelyn, Katherine and Lloyd all wondered what their little sister would be like. Helen did not disappoint, outliving them all during the course of her remarkable 93-year life which was punctuated by an ever-present sense of fun, an insatiable interest in others and a memory for detail that put her children, Lee Baker, Ann (Jeff Heidemann) Mason, Ben Mason and Mary Margaret (Tom) Evans, to shame. Even her grandchildren - Reilly (Mason), Ford (Baker), Brother (Mason), Davis (Evans), Reid (Mason), Mason (Evans) and Grey (Baker) always knew to come to Gran for the real story when facts were needed.
Travel surfaced as an early theme, with Helen splitting the summers and winters of her formative years between St. Petersburg, FL and Natural Bridge Station, VA, where her family operated two seasonal hotels. Before the age of 20, she had taken two family transatlantic voyages on both HMS Queen Mary and HMS Queen Elizabeth, her father being a big believer in travel-as-education. Upon graduation from Mary Washington College in 1950, she promptly headed across the country, road-tripping with a girlfriend long before this was fashionable, to land a teaching job in California. This love of travel would wind up taking Helen to all corners of the US, and even the globe, with visits to far-flung family members always her favorite trips.
Helen married Les, her husband of 54 years, in 1957, and they began their own family chapter in Powhatan. An avid volunteer and passion for community, Helen was the first Christmas Mother of Powhatan, a founding auxiliary member of the Fine Creek Club, a Powhatan Garden Club member, Class Mother on countless occasions for her children at Huguenot Academy (now Blessed Sacrament Huguenot), founder of the Powhatan chapter of Girl Scouts USA, and a leading actress and founding member of "The Fine Arts Five" - one of the best local theatre troupes to grace the county. She was the last remaining charter member and a past-President of the Powhatan Women's Club.
A great lover of entertaining, Helen enjoyed both hosting events at The Glebe and dining out frequently, where she would often come up with guessing games for all in attendance, complete with gifts and prizes for all 9, win or lose, from her famous "white envelope". The "Ding-a-lings" was her longest-standing lunch group, meeting every December 21st for an incredible 44 years. An ultimate testament to Helen's love of fellowship and gatherings was her remarkable staying power over three full days of birthday surprises in the fall of 2018, when scores of close friends and family members came together in Richmond to celebrate her then incredible 90 years of life.
A life-long Christian but loathe to show preference among denominations, Helen chose to spread her faith across several churches - serving the congregations of Beth Horon United Methodist, Providence Presbyterian and May Memorial Baptist as a stalwart choir member and all-around activist within these church communities at different phases of her life.
Helen, Mom, Mrs. Mason, Gran and Aunt Helen left us on Thanksgiving Day 2021, but will always be happily in our hearts. Aside from her children and grandchildren, she is survived by 13 nieces & nephews, 19 grand-nieces & nephews and 20 great-grand-nieces & nephews, all of whom are fortunate to have been touched by her amazing life and generosity, as were so many friends of all ages. Her graveside service will be for immediate family only, per her request. Should you wish, donations may be made in her honor to the Powhatan Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc.