By LAURA WEICK Helen Abrams sits in a fold-up chair, adorned with balloons, on her 101st birthday outside her Wethersfield Commons home in Warwick. Surrounded by family and friends, yet distanced six feet apart and adorned in a facemask, she smiles
Helen Abrams sits in a fold-up chair, adorned with balloons, on her 101st birthday outside her Wethersfield Commons home in Warwick. Surrounded by family and friends, yet distanced six feet apart and adorned in a facemask, she smiles while her adult children share memories, and her youngest great-granddaughter tumbles on her blanket on the lawn.
As neighbors slowly drive by wishing their congratulations, Abrams explains she hopes to live to see at least one more “strong leader” in her lifetime. But her life experience and testimonies from her neighbors show that she is one herself.
Born on June 1, 1919, Abrams taught English at Cranston East High School. She taught students from a variety of backgrounds, and remained dedicated to teaching even during a teacher shortage. She retired in 1979 after a long, impactful career - as well as a funny exchange with a student.
“When one of my students told me ‘You remind me of my grandmother,’ that was when I knew
it was time to quit,” Abrams recalled.
Abrams continues to be involved in multiple activities. She is an active member of Temple Sinai in Cranston, enjoys walks with her neighbor Joan Gray around a nearby pond and participates in a book club. Abrams also cares deeply about her family of three daughters, eight grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Abrams has been using Zoom to stay in touch with her family, who live all across the country from Warwick to Seattle.
Abrams enjoys reading the news, and has noticed parallels between modern times and periods she has lived through in the past century.
“I think that the world definitely needs to change for the better,” Abrams explained. “I think it’s a lot like the 1960s right now, when there is going to be big change.”
Critical of politicians like President Donald Trump, whom she describes as “failing us,” Abrams believes that change is paramount in order to help people in need. She fondly recalls President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a leader she admires, and hopes that more people could follow in his footsteps.
“Good people don’t want to get into politics,” Abrams said. “And that’s not right. We need them. I can’t do it anymore, but I’d like to.”
Abrams is beloved by her neighbors due to her commitment to their well-being.
“My husband was sick for a while, and she called me up and she said ‘can I go to the store to get something?” Lois Rosenfield, one of Abrams’ friends, said. “He has since passed away, but I mean she was in her 90s and still asking if she could help.”
Marcia Beagan, one of Abrams’ neighbors, said that her thoughtfulness and loyalty to others is one of her best qualities.
“In what’s going on in the world, when somebody tells her something that happens, she not only will remember, but she will follow up on it,” Beagan said. “She is such a role model.” Abrams hopes to continue living a joyful life with her friends and family, but her biggest wish beyond quality leadership is one that many people across the world certainly share.
“I want to live to see them get rid of the virus,” Abrams says.
Despite social distancing measures, Helen Abrams’ 101st birthday party was one she’ll never forget. Not only did her family and friends organize an outdoors, socially-distanced gathering, but Beagan recruited more than 45 people to drive past her Wethersfield Commons in a parade. This came as a surprise to Abrams, who found it difficult to contain her excitement.
“I feel young,” Abrams said. “It was such a surprise.”