NORTH CREEK — This is the story of our grandmother, Helen (Ordway) Cornwall, affectionately known as Gram or Aunt Helen to many. Gram was an amazing woman who was loved, respected and admired by most everyone who knew her. Gram's work ethic and incredible kindness reached far and wide, whether it was providing food when tragedy arose, supplying the sauce for the Volunteer Fire Department's 4th of July chicken barbecue or ensuring that highway workers received their Christmas turkey no matter what! Helen was an amazing role model whose generosity of heart is legendary.
Helen's story begins in North Creek on September 9, 1917 as the fifth child of Jenny (Fagan) and Arthur Ordway. She grew up and graduated from North Creek High School. Gram was close to her siblings and her parents, especially her father, who she always referred to as “Pop.”
Helen met John Cornwall at a basketball game in North Creek. She and John were married and began their life in Port Washington, where two of their daughters, Judith and Nancy, were born. When the two girls were still very small, Helen and John purchased the old YMCA camp property located on Ordway Pond Road in North Creek. Their purchase came just in time to save the grand Adirondack garnet fireplace in the main building that was about to be dismantled. If you ever visited Helen at her home, you have seen that fireplace; it was the centerpiece of the house and something that she presented with pride.
In 1955, Helen and John's third child, Kathleen, was born, and their family was complete. She was an incredibly hard worker and fantastic cook. In her early years on Ordway Pond, Gram supported her family by running a B&B of sorts, renting rooms to tourists, hunters and area visitors and feeding them fabulous meals. She made wonderful, life-long friends with most everyone who stayed at her home, and families returned year after year to stay at “Helen's.”
Not only was Gram a great cook, she was also a renowned baker. In addition to being famous for her carrot cake, her wedding cakes were true works of art. Oh, and who could forget her chocolate chip cookies, plum cake, and beautiful Christmas cookies!
Many people in Johnsburg got to know Helen as their school tax collector, a job that she held for a number of years in the middle part of her life. Every fall, her dining room was converted into a tax office, with folks often stopping by for a visit and to pay their taxes.
Helen loved kids, and not just those who were related to her! She ran the Gore Mountain Ski Area nursery for 31 years. In that time, she impacted hundreds of children and families who adored her. At the end of her tenure at Gore, Gram often took care of the children and grandchildren of her original nursery kids.
After the passing of her husband, Helen was appointed to the Johnsburg town board, and went on to hold that seat for 20 years.
One of the greatest gifts that Gram gave all of us was the gift of family. She was the glue that held us all together. She raised three incredible women who took after her in many respects, but most especially in that they each made a difference in this world. Gram was also immensely proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, recognizing and keeping tabs on them into her 100th year.
Helen is predeceased by her daughter, Judith (Cornwall) Cole; her husband, John; and all of her siblings, Moses, John, Jerusha, Ernest, James and Harrison.
She is survived by her daughter, Nancy (Cornwall) Beaudin and son-in-law, Joel Beaudin, both of North Creek; daughter, Kathleen Cornwall Lorah, also of North Creek; her son-in-law, Thomas Cole of Spencerport; as well as 11 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
Helen was a loyal and lifelong member of the North Creek United Methodist Church.
Calling hours will be at Helen's home on 87 Ordway Pond Road, Thursday, Nov. 16, from 2 to 7 p.m.
A funeral service to celebrate her life will be conducted at 11 a.m., Friday, Nov. 17, at Tannery Pond Community Center, 228 Main St. North Creek.
Burial will follow in Union Cemetery, North Creek.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be sent to Adirondack Tri County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Please visit www.alexanderfh.net for online guest book and condolences.