Inducted: October 30, 1996
Helen Coatsworth has made a name for herself in a large part of Kent County by writing a newspaper column that keeps rural residents in touch with what is happening in their community and country, and reminds distant readers of their childhood on the farm
When she started writing for the Wheatley Journal, for the grandfather of the present editor, communication was relatively unsophisticated and her Talbot Street community news augmented word-of-mouth in keeping the area abreast of what was happening. At 89, she writes on a diverse range of subjects, including commodity prices, the state of agriculture, the weather, historical events, book and theatre reviews and the latest progress, or otherwise, of her favourite Tigers and Pistons teams.
Internet has now provided a level of instant communication that would have been considered a scientific impossibility when Mrs. Coatsworth was a girl; but she maintains a loyal following of readers who enjoy what she writes about life in the 1990s. When someone asked her what happened to the community once called Sycamore, she researched it and found that it is now called Stevenson.
Mrs. Coatsworth is a native of Glencoe, Middlesex County, and had the benefit of a good education, at a rural school followed by Glencoe High School and London Normal School. She taught in Essex and Kent counties before her marriage in 1933 to Grover Coatsworth, affectionately referred to as "Partner" since.
In those depression years, she and "Partner" operated a mixed farm on the Coatsworth Century Farm on Lake Erie. While she raised a family, she also took an immediate and active interest in her adopted community. A friend said of those days, "She was always interested in everything to do with making this a better community." In 1992, during the celebration of Canada's 125th Anniversary, Mrs. Coatsworth was very honoured to be presented with one of the 125 year medals in recognition of her community service.
Her membership in the Women's Institute has continued for more than 60 years, and she is presently Public Relations Officer for the Romney Women's Institute. The paper she gave to that W.I. Branch on the making of silk, reflected an active and inquiring mind.
Mrs. Coatsworth is an avid reader and, for some time, the Romney Public Library was located in the Coatsworth home, until a Kent Library system was established. She now gets her books from the Leamington Library, in quantities that would impress the average reader.
Mrs. Coatsworth and "Partner" were members of skating clubs in Chatham, Blenheim and Leamington; Mr. Coatsworth had a fatal heart attack while skating in Wheatley. She is an enthusiastic weaver and music-lover, and she plays the organ for her own enjoyment. She loves nature, and was a bird watcher before that term became popular and is a champion cribbage player.
Mrs. Coatsworth attends Talbot Street United Church and taught Sunday School for many years. She has three children: Beverly Gillespie of Wheatley; Alfred Coatsworth, Brampton; and Virginia Allen, Newmarket; six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Rick Eplett, editor of the Wheatley Journal, said Mrs. Coatsworth's appeal over the many years when she has worked with three generations of his family has rested in the fact that "she writes from the heart...things that anyone can relate to." When the paper celebrated its 100th birthday in 1995, the editor took an embroidered shirt to Mrs. Coatsworth, recognizing her years of service. The ensuing two hours were he said, "the most fascinating two hours I have ever had," as Mrs. Coatsworth talked of the things that make up her weekly column.