Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Townspeople

March 6, 2014

Farewell to a 'warrior for justice'

Eccles devoted life to equality, education

(Continued)

“Skip could not abide injustice,” Merrimack Valley Project vice president Rosemarie Buxton said. “She was rather quiet, but very direct and outspoken about what she felt was important.”

Labor issues were one of Helen’s priorities. She joined protestors outside Gillette’s Boston headquarters and attended stockholder meetings to object to the company’s treatment of temporary workers. Lawrence residents were among those bused to Gillette’s Fort Devens facility and required to pay their own fare — even if it turned out there was no work for them that day. Helen was instrumental in leading Tucker to push for passage of a law making the practice illegal.

Helen’s interest in the Merrimack Valley Project grew out of her earlier work teaching English as a Second Language in Lawrence, serving on Bread and Roses’ board and in its soup kitchen, mentoring Lawrence High School students and being involved with the Greater Lawrence Health Center.

After surviving a serious car accident as a young woman that left her in a coma for three months, Helen, who was raised by her widowed mother, became the only student at the time accepted on scholarship to Bryn Mawr, a women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.

She went on to pursue a rewarding professional career. A skilled and graceful writer (and consummate grammarian who did not hesitate to correct others), Helen was a contributor and editor for the Dartmouth News Office, education editor of the Andover Townsman and director of public information for Phillips. She served as associate editor, then editor, of the academy’s Alumni Magazine, which won several awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

As a “faculty wife,” Helen was also a dorm mother who took the position seriously. Anna Schneider, a former student, still counts Helen among her friends.

“She shared her life experience and was an excellent listener and coach,” Schneider said. “She was not too prescriptive, always giving the impression that it was not about being right or finding the only answer. It was about learning to choose and trying to figure out the best route or decision.”

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