We lost a friend
Toastmasters around the world lost a friend Saturday night. Helen Blanchard passed away. She will be missed.
Helen Blanchard was the first lady of Toastmasters. Everyone who ever met her thought of her as a friend. I know I did. She created a positive and supportive environment everywhere she went. So many of us shared interesting fun conversations with Helen. I’ll hang on to the messages she left on my answering machine. We all wish we could have hung onto Helen a lot longer.
She helped shape today’s Toastmasters International organization. Helen was a pioneer. She joined Toastmasters in 1970 when women were not allowed. They certainly could never become officers. Perish the thought. Helen persisted. She climbed the ladder, excelling at every step along the way. She reached the top. She became the first woman International President of our organization. Her journey is described in her biography Breaking the Ice a Toastmaster classic.
District 5 owes a special debt to Helen Blanchard. For more than forty years, she has given us countless thousands of hours. She has served District 5 and Toastmasters International at every level. She led by example all along the way and showed us how it was done. Helen spoke at club meetings and inspired us at special events. Her Toastmaster Leadership Institute workshops taught us how to speak, how to lead and how to write. She founded many clubs and energized even more.
Helen Blanchard was a pioneer, a trailblazer for District 5 and for Toastmasters International. The Helen Blanchard Trailblazer Award celebrates that spirit in District 5 members following in her footsteps. She presented the award to first three recipients of that award—Joyce Persichilli, Christoph Kubitza and John Murphy. They will jointly honor her memory and present her award to this year’s winner at this year’s spring conference.
District 5 is the home of Helen Blanchard. We are all fortunate to have known her.
Woody Wilson DTM
District 5 Governor