Helen Lenko Truskett
Seaford, Va. – Helen Lenko Truskett passed away peacefully on May 8, 2020, at home with family at her side. Born in July 1929 in Newburgh, NY, the fifth child of Ukrainian immigrants Pauline Balasz and George Lenko, Helen had a wonderful childhood in Depression-era Newburgh, where her parents achieved their American dream while working as a seamstress and starting a successful window washing business. Helen was an accomplished student and athlete at Newburgh Free Academy, graduating in 1947. The first in her family to go to college, she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz in 1951. Over the next 10 years, she taught elementary education at the West Point Post School at the US Military Academy and moonlighted as a physical education teacher at Ladycliff College in nearby Highland Falls, NY. Helen took advantage of her summer breaks, embarking on solo trips to Europe and the Middle East in the 1950s, unusual for women of her time. She also commuted to New York City for graduate work towards her master’s degree at Columbia University.
Helen married 1st Lt. Willard Gene Truskett in 1958 while he was stationed at Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh. Future postings together included Langley AFB, VA; Tachikawa, Japan; O’Fallon, IL; Clark AFB, Philippines; Tehran, Iran; Kansas City, MO; and finally back to Langley. Helen and Gene both had a love of travel, continuing well into retirement. Together they were able to touch many lives both abroad and at home, frequently hosting guests from all over the world.
Helen resumed her teaching career at Poquoson Elementary School from 1974 until her retirement in the early 1990s, a combined 25-year career. She was passionate about giving her students the love of learning and a classroom experience that would well prepare them for the years ahead. Many a student was sent on the right path with only a look! She was beloved by pupils who thrived in a unique environment with funky art projects and rescued animals, including a rascally seagull who patrolled the classroom aisles and kept discipline.
A skilled artist with deep appreciation of music and dance, Helen avidly supported the arts and encouraged her children and grandchildren to find their artistic voices. Locally, she enjoyed offerings of chamber music, opera, theater and ballet, and she attended all but a few Orchesis dance concerts at the College of William and Mary for the past forty years! A lifetime learner, Helen kept abreast of the news and delighted in tackling a wide range of subjects throughout her life including Russian, Farsi, cake decorating, opera, piano, and Chinese (the latter into her 80s). She earned a 4th degree Ikebana certificate in Japan and became a Master Gardener for York County. A formidable shopper and consummate artisan, she could match or beat Martha Stewart in everything house and home. A person of great largesse, she enjoyed entertaining guests in her home and giving gifts, especially around holidays. In the eyes of many, the most prized gifts were her stylized Pysanky Ukrainian Easter eggs which she not only gave to several generations of students during her career, but to dear friends far and wide.
Helen was a devout member of the Catholic community at Olde Yorke Chapel, US Coast Guard Training Facility. She volunteered for many causes, regularly visiting St. Francis Nursing Home and working the gift shop at Mary Immaculate Hospital. She employed her flower arranging skills to benefit multiple churches and special engagements throughout her life. She volunteered for Master Gardener projects around York County. She was always there for people who needed her or her talents.
Helen held life dear and cherished her friends. She was a loving and devoted wife, extraordinary mom, and proud grandmother. She will be missed often and loved always. She leaves behind her daughter Olenna and son-in-law Steve Budd of Brewster, NY, and grandsons, Alec and Peter Budd; son Brooks and daughter-in-law Carole and granddaughters, Sienna and Flynn, of Glen Mills, PA, and nieces Paula and Ann Kurz of New Windsor, NY. She follows her husband Willard Gene Truskett, her brothers Fred and George Lenko and sisters Mary Buser and Anna Kurz.
Helen will be buried alongside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery after a graveside service on Wednesday July 15, 2020 at 2:00 PM