Sad passing of local icon, Helen Yunker

Always a lady of class and distinction.

Helen had a simple philosophy: “In helping and sharing with others, you multiply your own blessings many times.” Her blessings were multiplied over and over again.

One of Ventura’s premier philanthropists, arts supporters and political activists, Helen died at age 97 peacefully on July 28.

Born in Chicago in 1921, Helen came to California in 1948 at the age of 27. After 10 years in direct sales, Helen fulfilled her dream of living at the seashore when she moved to Ventura’s Pierpont Bay area in 1958. A realtor since 1971, she ultimately founded Helen Yunker Realty which still bears her name.

Her almost 60 years in Ventura is a virtual history of ongoing community engagement. She has been recognized over the years for her many contributions, by numerous service organizations in the areas of educational, medical, civic, youth, theater, arts, property rights and senior concerns. Ventura would not be the same without her enormous contributions.

Love of music played a major role in Helen’s life. She sang in the Our Lady of Assumption church choir until the very end. She has entertained solo and with singing groups throughout her life at hospitals, jails, churches, ballets, etc. Her cameo appearances in the Nutcracker, by just walking on stage brought the house down.

Because her highlights and accomplishments would fill an entire page, we’ve listed just a few of them:

She sat on the Board of Ventura County Ballet Company (VCBC) and on the Ventura College Foundation Board.

1966: She co-produced “The First 100 Years in Ventura”, a centennial magazine celebrating and documenting the city’s founding in 1866.

1968: The Ventura County Board of Supervisors awarded her for leadership, as President of the Pierpont Bay Association, for leading the adoption of the Pierpont Improvement District.

1970: Helen led the first grandfathering program in Ventura, for the Pierpont area. Adopted by the City in 1977.

2003: The Ventura County Board of Realtors awarded Helen a special Inspiration Award for her dedicated efforts to protect Individual property rights.

2007: The Girl Scouts named Helen “Woman of Distinction”.

2008: The Ventura County American Red Cross awarded Helen the Clara Barton Award for her work dating back to the 60’s when, she played an active part in support services for our troops.

2008: The National Assn. of Community Colleges awarded Helen the “Benefactor of the Year Award” in Washington, D.C for raising $600,000 to equip the new math/science building at Ventura Community College.

In 2010 The City of Ventura awarded Helen the Mayor’s Arts Patron Award.

The Rubicon Theater’s performance hall displays her name in recognition of her donations and support of the theater. As is the Ventura College auditorium.

On her 95th birthday, a celebration was held for her at the Museum of Ventura County. At the celebration, the Helen Yunker Lobby was dedicated to her.

At the celebration she stated, “An institution of this importance and magnitude needs financial giving from the entire community that it serves. I hope you will step up and join me and know you are helping to preserve our past and ensure the future of our museum.”

When her portrait was painted by Johanna Spinks as part of The Face of Ventura portrait series in the Ventura Breeze Helen stated, “Having grown up in Chicago, Ventura, with its 25,000 population in 1958, its climate, location and overall ambiance, was a true panacea and fertile ground for my life’s goals. Today, after 54 years of service, my greatest blessing is the thanks and recognition I receive, also fully aware of my intense struggles, as well as accomplishments. Where else, but in Ventura, can one be embraced like a family member, and be gifted a feeling of belonging?”

She appeared before the City Council over 100 times to “discuss” the problems with the slope erosion on city property next to her home, and always began by introducing herself. Eventually, the city paid to have the slope repaired.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on August 10 at Our Lady of the Assumption Church followed by interment at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park.

She’ll be missed.

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