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Helen (Nasmith) Schantz
October 10, 1927 ~ August 16, 2023 (age 95) 95 Years Old
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Helen Nasmith Schantz died at Hospicare in Ithaca on August 16. She was 95 years old.
Helen was born on October 10, 1927, in Shanghai, China, the daughter of Baptist missionaries Alice Carter Nasmith and Augustus Inglesby Nasmith. In China, she was educated at home in Shaoxing and at the Shanghai American School. During the Sino-Japanese War, her family were refugees and her father was a prisoner of war, experiences that affected her for the rest of her life. After the family returned to the US, Helen attended high school in Rochester and Marion, NY. She graduated from Keuka College in 1949.
After graduation, she moved to Philadelphia, where she lived and taught nursery school at the House of Industry (one of the “settlement houses” formed in the 19th century to support immigrants) and at the Haverford Friends School. At the House of Industry she met Karl Schantz, an art student and youth worker. Both Helen and Karl had chosen to live in the settlement house because of its ongoing mission of helping underserved communities. Karl later recalled that when it was Helen’s turn to serve the group’s daily afternoon tea, she remembered how each resident took their coffee or tea; he was impressed by her care for other people’s comfort and by her memory. They fell in love and were married with her father presiding.
Helen and Karl raised four daughters: Sarah Schantz of Odessa, Faith Schantz of Pittsburgh, Karen Schantz of Ithaca, and Jane Schantz of Ithaca. As young parents, they were original residents of Concord Park, an intentionally racially integrated community in Bucks County, PA. Both were active in its civic life, finding a warm fellowship and lifelong friends there. Along with social justice activists, some of their neighbors were members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Though Helen had been immersed in the Baptist religion from birth, she was drawn to the Quaker faith because of the value Friends placed on inclusiveness and on questioning beliefs, not just asserting them. She joined the Southampton Friends Meeting, where she and Karl became part of a community of Vietnam War resistors and civil rights advocates.
After teaching art in Pennsylvania schools for many years, Karl retired early and the family moved to Odessa, where he built a new house on the site of a former farm. They shared the land with their daughter Sarah, her husband Eric Hilton, and Concord Park friends Frank and Caroline Pineo. Helen worked as a circulation clerk at the Tompkins County Public Library, where she especially enjoyed connecting with children. She was a valued member of the Ithaca Friends Meeting. For many years, she and Karl held “Midweek Meeting” at their home, and the couple self-published a spiritual newsletter. By the time of Karl’s death at Hospicare in 2007, they had been married for almost 55 years.
Helen loved gardening; bird watching; playing the piano, especially when she could accompany her sister Margaret’s singing; visiting with family and friends; and keeping a ceramic jar filled with home-baked chocolate chip cookies. She was always ready to take one of her children or grandchildren onto her lap to read a story, thereby passing on her love of books to two generations. Helen was the family chronicler, with a writer’s eye for detail. She was also known by friends and family as a gifted letter writer, often using cards she had made and carefully selected for the recipient. She connected with many people through letters, including some she would never meet.
Helen lived at the Longview senior living community in Ithaca from 2019 until shortly before her death. As a lifelong music lover, she particularly appreciated the musical performances at Longview and at Hospicare.
She was preceded in death by her husband Karl; brother Augustus Nasmith and sisters Agnes (Ann) Johnston, Mary Means, and Margaret Wedge; granddaughter Lila Schantz; and nephew Gus Nasmith. She is survived by her daughters; sons-in-law Eric Hilton, Tom Pandaleon, and Alan Bargar; grandchildren Erin and Kyle Schantz-Hilton, Asa Fox, Beyvan Schantz, and Matthew, Molly, and Liddy Bargar; great-grandchildren Sylvia, Isaac, Wiley, August, and Vivian; and three generations of nieces and nephews. She was greatly loved and will be missed. Her family thanks the nurses and aides at Hospicare and Longview for their love and care, and the Fortnight Singers and the Threshold Choir for bringing her live music at the end of her life.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, September 10, 2023 at 1:30 p.m. at Sheldrake Point Winery, 7448 County Road 153, Ovid, NY 14521. It will be outside under a tent with a reception to follow.
Donations in her memory may be made to Hospicare (hospicare.org), WSKG FM (wskg.org), or UNICEF (unicefusa.org).