Christine Krehbiel Helwig died on March 20, 2009 at Whitney Center in Hamden, Connecticut, her home for the past ten years. She was 95 years old. She is remembered for her extended public service, her commitment to education at all levels, her dedication to bettering the environment, her hospitality and her love of English country dancing.
Christine was born on June 27, 1913 in Palo Alto, California where her father, Edward Krehbiel, was a professor at Stanford University. The family moved to New Rochelle, New York in the mid 1920s. After graduating from Vassar College in 1934 with a major in dramatic production, she worked at the Brooklyn Museum designing and installing exhibits. She married Edward P. Helwig in 1936 and they settled their family in Larchmont, New York in 1941 where they lived for the next 58 years.
After active involvement with the PTA and the League of Women Voters, she was elected to the Mamaroneck Board of Education where she served for 6 years. It was during this time that Christine was instrumental in bringing about the elimination of high school sororities and fraternities as being discriminatory and divisive. In addition, she successfully lobbied for the restoration of elements of teachers pay and pensions which had been reduced during the Depression. Additionally the principle of equal pay for men and women in the school system was established nearly 20 years before this became a national priority.
Christine then began her service to the Town of Mamaroneck as councilwoman and deputy supervisor. She was elected supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck in 1969 and retired in 1975. As Town supervisor she brought intelligence, wisdom, an unimpeachable code of ethics and boundless energy to this “part-time” job. Her terms of service (twice elected unopposed) as Town supervisor were models of decorum and civility. She set the tone for a new era of high caliber effective Town management that continues through the present day.
During her service as liaison to the Recreation Commission she facilitated the acquisition by the Town of various parcels of land in excess of 61 acres from which the Sheldrake and Leatherstocking Trails, the Hommocks Conservation Area and the Premium Conservation Area were formed.
Christine and Ed were introduced to English country dancing in the 1950s and it was a passion for them both for the rest of their lives. Christine in particular became an expert in the music and dances of the 17th century and co-authored two books on this subject. She became an expert teacher and caller and was in great demand with country dance organizations all across the United States and Canada. While still actively involved in town government in the early 1970s, she and other dance enthusiasts founded the Country Dancers of Westchester, which performed at local bicentennial celebrations. In the 1980s Christine and some friends founded the New Haven Country Dancers. Both of these groups are still active and stand as a testament to her encouragement and development of other dance callers, group leaders and musicians.
Christine was a life member of the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) and was a valued member of numerous dance groups in the tri-state area including New York Country Dancers, New Haven Country Dancers and Chelsea Dancers. In addition, she worked tirelessly as a fundraiser to purchase Pinewoods Camp in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts, which today is operated by CDSS and serves as a summer home for groups who come together to grow their love of all forms of country dance and song. She also served on the executive board of CDSS and in 1990 had a pivotal role in arranging the 75th anniversary celebration of the society “Come Let’s Be Merry.” As homage to her great devotion to CDSS, she and Ed were presented, on their 60th wedding anniversary in 1996, a pair of handmade commemorative quilts containing 60 panels painstakingly crafted by dancers from across the country. Most squares represent an English country dance.
In addition to her many accomplishments in public life and the world of country dancing, Christine managed all of the responsibilities of family life. She loved entertaining and along with her husband hosted lovely parties for family and friends, many including dancing and live music. Christine was also a gourmet cook and an accomplished baker whose Christmas cookies were the topic of an article in the Daily Times of Larchmont. There was never an unsatisfied guest at her table and it was well known that her home was always open to friends and family who were in the New York area and needed a night’s lodging.
Christine is survived by her sister Susannah Horger; her daughters Christa Patterson and Minka Wallis, five grandchildren and 11 great and great-great grandchildren.
There will be a celebration of her life on April, 25 2009 at Purchase Friends Meeting in Harrison, NY at one o’clock pm.
In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions be made to The Country Song and Dance Society or Vassar College.