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Village of Youngstown Citizen of the Year - Helen Murray

by jpauly
Wed, Apr 25th 2018 08:00 am
Helen Murray with one of her prized possessions, a ballerina sculpture made by friend and local artist, Susan Geissler.
Helen Murray with one of her prized possessions, a ballerina sculpture made by friend and local artist, Susan Geissler.

 Village of Youngstown Citizen of the Year

Helen Murray

Helen Murray has been chosen by the Village of Youngstown Mayor Raleigh Reynolds and Trustees as the 2018 Village of Youngstown Citizen of the Year. Many community members have expressed their joy in recognizing a remarkable woman who has a genuine love for people. Helen has made an impact on everyone she comes into contact with from neighborhood kids, to former students to her church community.


Helen and her late husband Donald moved to Youngstown 50 years ago, when Don's job transferred him to the area. Youngstown has been a wonderful place for Don and Helen to raise their children Mary Ellen, Ann Marie and their late son Timothy. Helen is fortunate to still live in the same house since they moved to Youngstown and enjoy watching her neighbors children grow up, attending their weddings and meeting new families who move into the neighborhood.


As the youngest of nine children and youngest girl, Helen's older sisters entered her into a Shirley Temple contest sponsored by a dairy farm when she was young. She won the contest and her photo was used to promote the dairy farm. Additionally, one of the prizes was a free year of dance lessons which led to Helen's love and training in dance.


Helen was a dance teacher in the Akron School District, sponsored by the PTA starting at age 19. She has choreographed 16 high school musicals for the former Bishop Neumann High School in Amherst. Helen also worked with her dear late friend and brilliant dancer Beverly Fletcher Bellegia, known to many as Miss Bev. Many know Helen locally as the owner of Youngstown Dance for over 20 years.


Before opening the studio, Helen remembers the late Anne Gibson, a business owner and active volunteer in the Village, who created and distributed a survey asking for ideas for programs for the youth in the community to participate in. Anne approached Helen as she knew she was a dance teacher. Helen started classes at the Red Brick School, and after one year, rented the VFP Post. She continued to teach tap, jazz and ballet two days a week, touching the lives of many children with dance for 23 years. After years of teaching children, adults were interesting resulting in an 18 and over tap class, who named themselves the "Thundering Thighs"! Helen has many former students who have expressed their respect and admiration for the impact she has made on their lives. There are former students that have named their children after Helen. She keeps in touch with many of her former students who send her cards and photos and updates about their lives.


Helen is also known as "Grandma" to many in the neighborhood. She mentioned that she has more grandchildren than anyone in the world! Helen has opened her backyard and pool as a safe place for children and families to come over and enjoy for over forty years. Many neighborhood children learned to swim in her pool. Helen herself doesn't swim - her husband often referred to the pool as the largest foot bath in Youngstown! She enjoys people and because her neighbors are wonderful and respectful, it is a pleasure for her to have the pool and backyard filled with the laughter of children from the community.


At 87 years young, Helen is active with the Alter Rosary Society at St. Peter's RC Church / St. Bernard's and as a Sacristan. She enjoys being a part of the church and has made many friends from her involvement including the Rev. Msgr. David G. LiPuma. Helen also is involved with the Youngstown Women's Club, and a volunteer at Mount St. Mary's Hospital in the ER.


Helen attributes this award to her husband Donald who was very supportive of her. She received constant encouragement over their 60 years of marriage from Don and said a big part of the award is because of him. They loved raising their family and enjoying life together in the Village of Youngstown where friends are easy to make and friendships last a lifetime.


The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Raleigh Reynolds and the Village of Youngstown Trustees are proud to honor Helen Murray as the 2018 Village of Youngstown Citizen of the Year.

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