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Helen (Woolsey) Hall

SHARON — Helen (Woolsey) Hall died Nov. 11, 2010, in her home at age 93. Dr. Hall was born in Pelham Manor, N.Y., the daughter of architect and artist Heathcote Muirson Woolsey  and Dorothy Bacon Woolsey, a writer for the New Republic and the Atlantic Monthly.

She spent her early childhood in Pelham Manor, Kent and Paris, France.

An intellect with a passion for history and literature, Dr. Hall was known by students and family members for her enthusiastic descriptions of historic or literary figures. Her dry wit found expression in the humorous poems and short stories she drafted, often featuring her grandchildren in starring roles.

A devoted grandmother, Dr. Hall traveled to England with her eldest grandson, Sam, when he turned 15, so that he could learn about their shared family history. When her grandson Zachary was turning 15, she took him on a three-week wilderness program to track and tag bears in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina.

She regularly traveled to Wyoming to ride horseback with her grandsons when she was well into her late 70s, prior to experiencing her first stroke.

A graduate of Vassar College, Dr. Hall met her first husband, Wellington Wales, when both were master’s students at the Columbia School of Journalism. “Duke” Wales, as he was called, was on The New York Times editorial board at the time of his death in 1966.

She later married John Nelson Steele, a partner at the law firm Hughes Hubbard and Reed in New York City, and was widowed again in 1969.

She was introduced to Harry Hall on Thanksgiving in 1980 and they were wed in 1985.  Mr. Hall was the chief engineer and vice president of what is now called Domino Sugar. They retired in Macedonia Brook Valley.

Dr. Hall taught English at the Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., and continued to be a mentor to her students throughout her life. After the death of Duke Wales, Dr. Hall went to New York University to earn her doctorate in Victorian literature.

At the same time, she taught in the public high school within Bellevue Hospital, working with teenagers with mental illness referred by the juvenile courts.  She took special pleasure in writing plays with flattering roles for each student.

After earning her PhD., Dr. Hall taught literature and writing at the College of Insurance in New York City, where she was the regular recipient of the best professor of the year award.

Dr. Hall is survived by her husband, Harry, of Sharon; her son, Heathcote “Pete” Woolsey Wales of Washington, D.C.; her daughter, Jane MacGregor Wales of San Francisco; her grandsons, Samuel, Zachary and Daniel Wales; her great-grandchildren, Luke and Aliya Wales; and three stepchildren, Peter Hall, Elizabeth Hall and Kathy Fricker.

A funeral service will be held Monday, Nov. 22 at 11 a.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kent.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the International Rescue Committee, headquartered in Washington, D.C.; or The Chore Service in Sharon. Arrangements are under the care of the Kenny Funeral Home in Sharon.

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