Missing Aunt Hellyne

Happy birthday to my sweet aunt Hellyne Summerrise, born September 23, 1925. She would be 95 years old today. I miss her so much and wish I could talk to her about many things going on in the world today. I thought of all she did in her life to promote civil rights, and how she and my mother were true sisters that loved and supported each other through thick and thin. I thought about her love of reading and how she would stay up late at night to finish a book. I was in awe of how fast she finished books. Now my daughter Kaila reads books just as fast. She even got in trouble (good trouble) for sneaking off to read in elementary school. Aunt Hellyne has passed down her love of books and knowledge to our family. She also loved the television shows “Little House on the Prairie” and “Matlock”. You had better not call her when her shows were on, unless you wanted to talk to yourself. Just by coincidence, I got a chance to watch Matlock this morning and I see why she was hooked. My husband only watched for a few moments and it even made him chuckle! Matlock still brings back sweet memories of my aunt.

Hellyne Summerrise at Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Capitol Rotunda in Olympia on January 16, 1989 (photo MOHAI)

You may think you know the love of a sibling, but Hellyne’s love for my mother was so deep she would take her spankings! She could not stand to see my mother hurting. That is real love. My uncle Bob once said he thought he would have to take my mother on his honeymoon with them because they were so close. To know or experience that level of love is something that would benefit our hurting world today. The bible says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no one than to lay down their life for a friend”. I believe my aunt had that level of love for her sister. She and my mom simply loved being together. One of their delights was going to the Rainier Wendy’s “all you can eat” salad bar. They almost always got the same items: salad bar, chili and maybe a Wendy’s single (no cheese for Hellyne). They loved the buffet style restaurants like Royal Fork and King’s Table. When Jerrell was young, Hellyne and Bob often took him to eat at Zoopas near Southcenter. I don’t know if he realized they were starting him out on the healthy food regiment he now upholds. Back then, it was just time with Nana and Papa (smile).

If my aunt were here today I would surely see her out marching for justice as she did when she marched with Dr. King the one time he visited Seattle. She would be in the middle of talks about justice because everyone would certainly want to know “What does Mrs. Summerrise think?” She had the kind of spirit and energy that made people listen and pay attention. She was not E.F. Hutton but she had that effect on folks. She protested against apartheid and had the great honor of meeting Nelson Mandela when he visited Seattle. My aunt liked the spotlight, but she did not grandstand or try to get notoriety for herself. It was about peace, fairness and justice for all people. She would not be happy that the nation is so divided today. She also would not approve of protests that are not peaceful. She did not stand for foolishness. She would want everyone to be heard.

My aunt Hellyne would encourage all people to vote because of the sacrifices our ancestors made. Lately, I have started to get apathetic about voting, due to personal hurt. I know, I know! She would not like that at all, but I am being honest. She would say, “Nevermind, Shawn Kismet! Now you know better, get your behind out there and vote!” Make no mistake, I will be voting in the November 2020 election, if only to honor the memories of my mom and aunt Hellyne.

Happy birthday Aunt Hellyne. I love and miss you. Thank you for loving our family and teaching us to be proud of who we are. Thank you for the protective love you provided my mother. I believe your love for her made a true difference in her life. Thank you for all you did to make the world a better place, and for being a drum major for justice and peace. I wish you were here to comfort me and tell me, “it’s gonna be all right.” Your spirit still lives on in your family.

There was a recent music battle between Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight. In my aunt Hellyne’s mind, there would be no battle, Gladys would win hands down! This is her favorite song of all time, at least to my knowledge:). Enjoy “Midnight Train to Georgia”.

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