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Helen Badenhausen Danforth

Helen Badenhausen Danforth, a longtime resident of Ipswich, died peacefully at the Portsmouth Regional Hospital on October 9, 2020 due to complications of heart disease.

 She was the fourth of six children of Carl Badenhausen and Dorothy (Schweinler) Badenhausen. Helen was born on June 2, 1932 in Orange, New Jersey. Her childhood in Short Hills, New Jersey included graduation from the Oak Knoll School in 1950.  She continued her education as a music major at Newton College in Newton, graduating in 1954.  In 1955 she married Robert M. McGarty. By 1960 the couple had settled in Ipswich, where Helen had already developed many deep and lasting friendships.  It was here they raised their children Michael, Matthew, Catherine, and Louisa.

Helenís second marriage to Haines Hooker Danforth in 1986 expanded Helenís family to include not only Hook, but his five grown children as well.  In short order, three beloved granddaughters joined the family.  Helen took great joy in being a grandmother.  Hook and Helen enjoyed life in Ipswich enhanced by summers in Maine.  Hook died in 2010.

Helen was actively involved with music for her whole life.  She was an accomplished keyboardist, playing and performing on the piano, organ and harpsichord, as well as recorder and other renaissance woodwinds. She undertook further study at Wellesley College, and received a Master of Music degree from Boston University in 1986. She served for several years as Executive Director of The Cecilia Society of Boston (Boston Cecilia). She taught the recorder at the North Shore Music School, and served as Organist of the First Unitarian Church of Rockport, and Assistant Organist at Ascension Memorial Church in Ipswich.

Helen performed in a variety of musical groups including a long-standing Ipswich recorder group (memorialized on an Ipswich Seventeenth Century Day postcard).   Later she formed The Essex County Baroque Ensemble, (fondly known as the Essex Countesses). As well, she performed in many different ad-hoc ensembles, particularly at the Ipswich Public Library and Ascension Memorial Church, where she was also an active member of the choir.  Most recently she greatly enjoyed four-hand piano performances with Frank Corbin. 

Helen took an active role in the Castle Hill Festival in the 1970s and 1980s.   There she served on the Festival Committee, was a founding organizer of the Castle Hill Dance and Music Week, and created and ran Childrenís Dance Week. 

Helen loved Ipswich, both the town and the surrounding land, but particularly the marshes where she enjoyed many swims in Gouldís Creek. As an engaged citizen, Helen served as a Trustee of the Public Library.  She was also deeply involved in activities at Ascension Memorial Church.  There she served on the board, organized book groups and participated in meditation and spiritual studies. Her search for further spiritual growth led to her becoming a Benedictine Oblate of the Glastonbury Abbey of Hingham later in life. Helen reached out to people.  Her warmth and generosity touched many.  Her numerous family, friends and neighbors will deeply miss her creative, welcoming and nonjudgmental spirit.

She is survived by her sister Peggy Badenhausen and her husband Thomas Kelly of Ipswich; her children Michael McGarty and his wife Denessa McGarty of Ipswich; Catherine McGarty and her husband James Der Derian of Sydney, Australia; Louisa McGarty and her partner Bryan Jackson of Niwot, Colorado; her grandchildren Marguerite White, Elizabeth McGarty and Anne McGarty; and her stepchildren Randi Danforth, Thaddeus Danforth, Katrina Danforth, Christopher Danforth and Lisa Danforth along with numerous step-grandchildren.

Due to Covid 19 restrictions a private memorial gathering will be held for immediate family.  A celebration of Helenís life including all relatives and friends will be held when safe to do so in the future. Arrangements by the Whittier-Porter Funeral Home of Ipswich.


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