Helen McCarthy, a long-time professor of English at Santa Barbara City College, died peacefully at Samarkand on February 17, 2018. Born Helen Marcella Lasek on July 29, 1922, in Springfield, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of Aloyze and Bronislawa Lasek and stepdaughter of Pauline Lasek. She received a bachelor’s degree from Pembroke College, now part of Brown University, in 1944. During the Second World War she served in the U.S. Marine Corps. She entered Columbia University in 1946 and received a PhD in English in 1953, with a dissertation on the novels of William Makepeace Thackeray.
She taught for a year on an Indian reservation in Toppanish, Washington, then two years at the University of Arizona in the early 1950s. She married Patrick McCarthy in Tucson in 1951, and taught English in Tucson high schools for twelve years. She and her husband lived and did research in Rome in 1964-65 before returning to Tucson. In 1966 they moved to Santa Barbara where Helen took up an appointment at Santa Barbara City College and Patrick in the English department at UCSB. She taught language and literature classes at SBCC over the next 26 years, impacting large numbers of students with her wit and rigor. She retired from full-time teaching in 1992. She and her husband enjoyed travels to England and throughout Europe.
Helen was an indefatigable reader of novels and became a connoisseur of late-twentieth century fiction. Her students over two decades knew her as an exacting and witty reader of their essays and a teacher who drew them into enjoyment of the characters and plots of Victorian novels.
She is survived by her husband, Patrick, and her niece Marilyn Lasek of Brookline, Massachusetts. A graveside service was held on February 26 at Calvary Cemetery. A memorial mass is planned for 11:00 am, March 14 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Montecito.