Helen Trilhus Hurwitz died on Feb. 2 at her home in Chilmark surrounded by her loving family. She was 86.

Born on Oct. 23, 1923, in Lake Mills, Iowa, Helen grew up on a remote farm in Iowa which her grandfather from Norway homesteaded in exchange for service in the Civil War. She enjoyed recalling the details of farm life such as the long walk to her one-room schoolhouse, morning chores and winter rides in her father's sleigh with her sister covered in buffalo robes. Her lifelong interest in theatre was triggered by a pesky boy who antagonized her for months on end from the desk behind. When she was assigned a role in the school play as the boy's mother, she felt the thrill and satisfaction of creative reprisal.

Helen was a graduate of Luther College in Decora, Iowa, majoring in drama and music. Tula, as she was called in those days, taught speech and English in Iron Mountain, Mich., before coming East to act in summer theatre in Plymouth, Saranac Lake and Cooperstown, Pa.

She met her husband of 60 years at the Yale School of Drama, where they were both students, after Al’s discharge from the U.S. Marines. They married in Brooklyn, lived on Sullivan street and engaged in the vibrant New York off-Broadway theatre scene of the early 1950s. When they moved to Miami, she appeared with Imogene Coca in the Coconut Grove Playhouse. With three young children at home, Helen revived her youthful cooking skills, winning a solo trip to the Waldorf Astoria in New York as a Pillsbury Bake-off finalist. In the 1960s when the family relocated to Newton, Helen served as drama specialist for Newton's Arts Six Project, leading workshops in theatre games while studying at the Al Saxe Acting Studio.

Helen was thrilled to have a rambling wooden house (after Miami's concrete and stucco) and set to work painting woodwork mustard yellow, a door deep orange and building numerous bookcases for Al's extensive collections. All the while, Helen was invaluable in her role as typist and editor for Al’s books, indispensable in being the only one able to decipher his handwriting. Their Austin street residence was home away from home for many artists, actors and educators from around the world and Helen set a fine table for all. After some years in Baltimore, and after Al’s retirement, they moved to the Vineyard to be near their son, Mark, and grandchildren. For the coldest winter months, they left their Island home to join their daughter, Tamara and her family in Los Angeles with some time devoted to son Michael and his family in Philadelphia. She was always surrounded by the love and conviviality of the extended family . . . meals and cooking were central to the Hurwitz household wherever they found themselves.

Helen's love of nature and savoring the still moment were satisfied in her many Island walks and fascination with local bird life. She was an abiding, old-fashioned letter writer — her way of cherishing family and friends near and far. She passed down her famous recipes of Israeli chicken and pineapple upsidedown cake to her grandaughters and offered elocution and acting lessons for the grandkids at large.

In a small recent gathering at the family home on Hewing Field, Helen was honored and recalled as a woman of quiet strength, integrity and elegance; she was the soul of empathy with a backbone of Midwestern practicality and a gift for telling it like it was.

She will be long and deeply missed by her husband, Al Hurwitz of Chilmark; her children Mark Hurwitz of Chilmark, Michael Hurwitz of Philadelphia, Pa., Tamara Pullman of Los Angeles, Calif., and their families including eight grandchildren: Maesa, Maria, Jack, Nate, Lewis, Isaac, Marina and Bo, each a constant source of intense and abundant joy. She was predeceased by her beloved sister, Anna Montgomery.

The Helen Trilhus Scholarship Award in Art Education has been established at Maryland Institute College of Art. Contributions may be sent to Dr. Karen Carroll, Dean of Art Education, MICA, 1300 Mt. Royale Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217.