Helene Willey

Date of Birth

March 27, 1938

Date of Death

September 24, 2022

City of Death

Santa Barbara, CA

HELENE LUNA DAIGNEAULT WILLEY (1938 – 2022). Helene passed away on September 24, 2022 in Santa Barbara. She was born March 27, 1938 in Sherbrooke, Quebec to Luna (Dole) and Oscar Daigneault. She grew up there and later in Greenlay, along the St. Francis River. Her childhood was boisterous and near idyllic, filled with many siblings, Saturday evening radio broadcasts of “Hockey Night in Canada”, a slew of local kids, visiting cousins, and lots of horseplay—with attendant stories that were told, re-told, and revised over time. After high school, at the ripe old age of 17, Helene moved to Joliette, Quebec, where she was the sole teacher for a multi-grade, one-room schoolhouse. She then returned to nursing school in Sherbrooke. Upon graduation, she was recruited and moved to Santa Barbara to take up a nursing position at Cottage Hospital. During her early years in Santa Barbara, she lived with a group of other nurses in a large house on the Upper East Side, within walking distance to the hospital. She loved nursing and the community of friends. In 1962, Helene married Charles Willey, a young lawyer, and they soon began a family. Helene delighted in the role of mother. She was an active, supportive, and engaged parent, helping run a neighborhood preschool, acting as room mother for numerous classes, doing multiple stints as Cub Scout den mother, serving as PTA President (SBHS), and attending and promoting her children’s many sports activities, all the while presiding over a menagerie of pets: a succession of dogs, the odd cat, a pygmy goat, a duck with a protective streak, chickens, rabbits, hamsters, turtles, fish, rescued crows, a raccoon, and a chatty African Grey parrot. Helene was an excellent cook and also loved to bake—her coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, and apricot horns were family favorites. She believed maple syrup was its own food group and she was an early adopter of nutrition-focused eating. Helene was engaged in the larger community, serving two terms on the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury and volunteering as a Courthouse docent. She was also a devoted member of the Junior League and took pride and pleasure in helping produce the annual rummage sale for several years, as well as guiding the Santa Barbara Junior League cookbook to print. Helene loved to travel (throughout the U.S. and Canada, Ireland, Scotland, England, France, and Switzerland) and was occasionally adventurous (Nepal to visit one son, New York City to visit another). She enjoyed her book club and when hosting, she always served meals that were thematically linked to the particular book. Helene was loyal, opinionated, a fan of teasing and being teased, and she liked to laugh. Family was everything to her and she was a fantastic mother and a devoted grandmother. She will be missed. Helene is predeceased by her parents and four siblings (Dwight, Malcolm, Joanne, and Dianne). She is survived by siblings Marilynn, Stephen and David; her children Stephen (Gretchen), Heather (William), Brent, and Scott (Laurel); and grandchildren Ryan, Cole, Blake, Lucien, Sian, Caden, Katrine, and Theo. Services will be private. If inclined, please consider a donation to VNA Health – https://vna.health/.


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