MADISON, Wis. — Helen Boley, of Madison, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at Agrace HospiceCare in Fitchburg, surrounded by loved ones after a brief battle with lung cancer. She was 79 years young. Helen lived a long and vibrant life. She was adored by everyone who knew her. She was born Aug. 24, 1937. She was adopted as a baby in Chicago, lll., by her parents, William Benton and Helen (Hemingway) Benton of Southport, Conn. Helen conducted a successful search for the identity of her birth mother, Christine Elrod, originally of Ponce City, Okla., who became a teacher in Cheney, Wash.
Helen attended Oberlin College and Sarah Lawrence College, then was married to John Boley in 1957. They raised five children in Illinois, divorcing in 1972. Helen was a lifelong Democrat and always volunteered in campaign phone-banks, also going door-to-door with pamphlets well past the time common sense should have told her to stop. She was instrumental in getting Russ Feingold’s initial push for his Senate seat off the ground. She kept very well-informed, and yelled at the television frequently, when Republican escapades got out of hand. Her compassionate, altruistic nature led her to co-found the Wisconsin Community Fund, a non-profit which made grants to progressive community groups.
Helen was devoted to her family and friends, helping them all in more ways large and small than we will ever know. Helen spent many years involved in a Hereford cattle business in the Arena/Spring Green area. The surrounding countryside had a special hold on her heart; it allowed her to indulge her love for horses, and she made many lasting friendships there. In the late 1970’s she and some friends established and ran Hillcountry School, an alternative school, for their children near Dodgeville. Helen loved music, especially Texas swing and boogie. She played cello, guitar and piano, and never stopped dancing. Her artistic interests also included writing short stories and painting water-colors, and she was excited to attend the Madison Film Festival each spring. Although Helen didn’t exactly relish cooking day-to-day, holiday baking was a must, including Christmas cookies and animal-shaped breakfast breads.
Packer game days were sacred. Helen also had her red-and-white-pompoms ready for Badger football and basketball games, and she tried to make the trip to Miller Park to watch the Brewers play at least a couple of times a year. Helen was an active member of Grace Episcopal Church. She volunteered to work in their food pantry for many years, and took part in the Haiti Project, sponsoring a child and selling coffee and handcrafts.
Helen is survived by her special life partner, James Fields; her daughters, Taemie (Michael) Saucerman of Arena and Helen A. Boley of Hoffman Estates, IL; her sons, Eric (Donna) Benton of Eagle, CO., Garrett (Jen) Benton of Littleton, CO., and John Feraday; grandchildren, Justin, Jenny, Maddie, Chloe, Markie and Jessie; and three great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents; her brothers, Charles and John Benton; and her sister, Louise Wagner.
Services will be held at GRACE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 116 W. Washington Avenue, Madison, on Friday, April 21, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. with reception to follow. A private burial for family and close friends will be held on Saturday, April 22, 2017. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Wisconsin Public Television and Second Harvest Food Bank. The family would like to thank everyone at Agrace HospiceCare for their unsurpassed kindness and comfort. Online condolences may be made at www.gundersonfh.com.
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