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Helen Stevenson-Galpin

Messages of Remembrance

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My mother was an amazing woman. Full of grace, hard as steel, compassionate, intelligent, humorous, inquisitive and filled with a sense of adventure. Stories of her adventures will continue to be told as long as those of us who knew her can tell them (Mexico road trip anyone?). One I will always remember was her trip to Afghanistan in 1987. She was 72 years old. I was working for an organization training Mujahideen guerrilla medics to fight the Russians (at that time we were the “good guys”). Our main camp was near a village called Thal. Located at the tip of a peninsula of Pakistan that juts toward Kabul: less than ten miles, as the crow flies, north of the Russian garrison at Khost, deep inside the Northwest Frontier Provinces (NWFP) of Pakistan. The NWFP is just that, the frontier: lawless, dangerous, unpredictable and violent. In order to get to Thal you have to travel for hours by back roads through what was recently described in a 2009 documentary (twenty two years later) as “the most dangerous place in the world.” The nearest “town” was Dhara. There were only two products in Dhara: weapons and drugs. All homes in the NWFP are walled and armed (status is conferred by the caliber of weaponry. Those with .50 cal and above mounted on the roof were the upper class). Our only contact with the more “secure” Peshawar was radio, irregular phone service, and a twice weekly courier. One day the courier arrives with a telegram which read: “Arrive Peshawar Tuesday stop Please meet me stop Mum.” What??? This is a War Zone??? By this point (given how long it had taken the telegram to reach me), the only choice was to hop in with the courier on the return run. My mum arrived and headed back to Thal with me where she spent several weeks helping in the hospital and charming even the most hard-bitten Mujahid, who acted like chagrined schoolboys in her presence. She truly charmed everyone she met: kids, elders, Americans, Pakistanis, soldiers and civilians. She wandered the village making friends and, to this day, guys I served with ask about her. I've attached a photo taken one afternoon, up in the hills. The hospital/camp was armed, and we used to go weekly to the hills for target practice and just to get out of the camp. This is a photo taken on one of those jaunts. It still makes me smile to see my mother in camo in front of an ambulance: happy, and adventurous. She left after a few weeks, and then spent several weeks trekking the Hindu Kush Mountains by herself. Truly, an inspiring role model. I recently received a condolence card which captures some of my feelings: “Her spirit is now free to fly where ever it desires.” Godspeed, mum.

Peter Galpin, Son
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I remember my Mom, Helen Galpin as an individual who strove to think and act outside the box. She and I didn't always agree, but she did attempt to see things my way if they were something she had never contemplated before. I often gained a partner in crime on those. I got my love for adventure, and traveling from Mom, her love for flowers, gardening, animals, big & small, feathered,and furry she has passed onto me. The memories, will always be in my heart.

Lindley, Daughter
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I was lucky to have had Helen as a mother in law and to have married into the Stevenson-Galpin clan, marrying her oldest son Ken. After Ken hung up his racing gloves, we started a tradition of going sailing for our holidays over to the Gulf Islands. The first year we chartered a boat and headed out for our adventure. We would normally go the last week of August and the first few weeks of Sept as the weather was still nice and warm. Ken would like to drop anchor away from the rest of the other boats so when he found a lovely little cove where only one boat could fit, he was pleased as punch. Helen would come and join us for a week since Ken's birthday fell during that time of year. This one particular night, floating in the little bay, the sun providing a spectacular show of different shades of red, orange we sat on the bow of the sailboat and enjoyed a glass of champagne. All of a sudden, right in front of our cove, a mother Killer Whale and her baby surfaced and started to play. They stayed in front of our little cove and entertained us for a good half our and then went on their way. That was the start of many more spectacular trips, sights and adventures the three of us would have together. I miss them both.

Mary Bodo Galpin, Daughter in Law

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