Helen Shurtleff Tyra, 89, Was Talented Gardener

Helen (Shurtleff) Tyra of Edgartown died Sunday morning, March 30, at her home after a lengthy illness. She was 89.

On May 18, 1941 in Edgartown, she married Edwin G. Tyra of Pickerel, Wisc. Mr. Tyra died just seven weeks before his wife.

She was born Sept. 29, 1913, daughter of the late Charles Francis and Jessie (Smith) Shurtleff and sister of the late Gordon F. Shurtleff of Edgartown.

A 1931 graduate of the Edgartown High School and Mary Washington College at Fredericksburg, Va., in 1935, she became a private secretary in Boston.

The Tyras started their home in Gypsy, W.Va., where he operated a sawmill. They moved with their young daughter across the country, he building and operating mills, then buying walnut trees he selected to be made into gunstocks for the government during the war. They lived in nine states; for the first time they were unable to vote in a presidential election because they could not establish residence for a year in any one state.

After his year in the Navy, they purchased her Shurtleff family homestead, built in 1851, moving in with their two children, Patricia Ann and Gordon Warde, while renovating. Helen helped refinish furniture, some bought at auction, and made braided rugs for several rooms from wool material bought in Boston as well as discarded clothing for colors. One of these won a blue ribbon.

Her hobby was flower gardening - bearded iris, tea roses and many climbing roses along the old farm cedar rail fencing. She exhibited annually at the agricultural fair, nearly always winning one or more firsts.

She was a member of the Edgartown Federated Church, the M.V. Seacoast Defence Chapter of the D.A.R. and had served as secretary of the Dukes County Historical Society board.

With children in college and high school, Helen was appointed as the first woman probation officer of Dukes County District Court, in charge of all adult and juvenile probationers. She served for 13 years until her retirement on Oct. 27, 1979. She also served as law librarian during that time. The library was next to her office; she worked weekends and some evenings filing to keep it current, ordering books and making out the budget.

Mrs. Tyra is survived by her daughter, Patricia A. Tyra and her husband, Harold Bauld of Dania Beach, Fla., and Edgartown; her son, Gordon W. and his wife, Ann, of Edgartown; her granddaughter, Karen and her two children of Westmont, Ill.; her sister in law, Grace Juetten of Rhinelander, Wisc., and her nephew, George Juetten and his wife, Sondra of Boise, Idaho, and several cousins.

Interment will be private; a memorial service will be held in mid-May, which would have been the Tyras' 62nd wedding anniversary.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Edgartown Federated Church, P.O. Box 249, Edgartown, MA 02539; Edgartown Public Library, P.O. Box 5249, Edgartown, MA 02539; or Friends of the Edgartown Council on Aging, P.O. Box 1295, Edgartown, MA 02539. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs.