Louise Helm Bessire of New York city and West Tisbury died peacefully in Falmouth, Me. on Jan. 25. She was 84.

She was born in Louisville, Ky. on May 18, 1937 to Mary Norris Burge Helm and Thomas Oliver Helm. Springer spaniels, horses and ponies were part of her childhood. She was a 1954 graduate of Kentucky Home School and a 1958 graduate of Smith College. During her Smith years, she reconnected with her future husband Henry Bessire, also a Kentuckian. After their 1959 marriage they moved to New York city and later to Brooklyn Heights where their sons Paul and Mark were born.

In Brooklyn she began a lifelong commitment to helping others. She and her husband were involved in fighting for civil rights during the teachers’ strike of 1968, and for causes backed by Trinity Church, with which they were affiliated. She was dedicated to the Democratic party and liberal politics throughout her life.

In 1969, the family relocated to Princeton, N.J. She worked on several Democratic campaigns and served as commissioner of public health for the city. She was also executive director of Interalp, an international exchange program for high school students. The family returned to New York city in 1980, where Louise ran a food program for the unhoused.

She was an active member of Episcopal churches in New York and Princeton, and a devoted attendee at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. She served as a lay chaplain at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and led the New York chapter of the Society of Companions of the Holy Cross.

She was an enthusiastic lover of the arts on the Vineyard and in New York city.

She introduced her husband to the Vineyard in the 1950s when they came to visit her family at Cliff Cottage in Chilmark. The young Bessires spent perfect summer days at Stonewall Beach and Squibnocket, and began renting a cottage in Menemsha.

In 1966 they purchased the 19th-century West Tisbury house of Mabel Johnson, a maker of hooked rugs. Loving yellow, they painted the house their favorite color. Louise gardened with gusto, growing native plants and a red rose that bloomed throughout the fall, while caring for Mabel Johnson’s famous early snowdrops and lavender crocuses. The Yellow House was a gathering place for family and friends, including Vineyard artists whose work she and Henry displayed. Her Friday suppers always featured Grace Church lobster rolls and Morning Glory chicken salad. On Sunday evenings there were porch gatherings to bring newcomers together with neighbors.

She enjoyed swimming at Lambert’s Cove, eating Chilmark Chocolates, trips to Poole’s or Larsen’s fish markets, fresh produce from the West Tisbury Farmers Market and visits to the Polly Hill Arboretum.

She is survived by her sons Paul Edmond Bessire of Santa Monica, Calif. and Mark Helm Conlin Bessire and his wife Aimée Bessire of Portland, Me.; grandchildren Nicholas Ollier Bessire, Emma Isabelle Bessire and their mother, Anne Kaplan, Blakey Hawkins Conlin Bessire and Clayton Holloway Conlin Bessire; her siblings Mary Helm Meyers, Nancy Helm Thomas, Jane Helm Baker and Harold Helm; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was predeceased by her husband, Henry Edmond Bessire in 2011, and her brother Thomas Helm.

Her funeral will be held June 4 at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven with a memorial service to follow on June 11 at St. Ignatius Episcopal Church in New York city.

Donations may be made to Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1957, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568; Vineyard Conservation Society (network for good.org/vineyard conservation), or Adelynrood (The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross), 46 Elm Street, Byfield, MA 01922.