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Helen Hope Williams Wigglesworth

Helen Hope Williams Wigglesworth, whose personal charm, coupled with professional and community endeavors were renowned from Ipswich to Boston, died at Beverly Hospital on May 5, 2017 after a short illness.  She was surrounded by her four children and Rev. Brad Clark of Ascension Memorial Church in Ipswich.  She had celebrated her 90th birthday in October. 

“Hope was a very special person,” said Rev. Clark this week.  “She was bright and articulate.  But most of all, she knew how to be a gracious host to everyone she met.”

A long time friend, Harvard College Dean of Freshmen, Tom Dingman, described Hope as a “giant—a woman of great strength and wisdom.” 

Mrs. Wigglesworth’s relationship to the community of Ipswich was very important to her.  Recently, when Hope was recovering from a knee operation, daughter Henrietta went to the post office to pick up her mail.  Henrietta said the postal worker offered good wishes for Hope and then added,” If she ran for town selectman, she would win all three seats.”

Hope was born in New York City and attended school there.  Her childhood summers were spent in York, Maine.  She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1948.  In 1950, she married Dr. William C. Wigglesworth and in 1951, they moved to Ipswich, where he was the general surgeon at Cable Memorial Hospital and community physician.

The couple had four children.  “Growing up, she was always there for us,” recalled her son John, “but even then, her devotion to her community was quite clear.”  The pattern of activism and community involvement that characterized her life started in Ipswich and on the North Shore, and then broadened to Cambridge and Boston. 

Mrs. Wigglesworth began her career as a language arts teacher and adviser at the Doyon and Shatswell Schools in Ipswich, and then at Shore Country Day School in Beverly. 

First involved as a Radcliffe alumna, she was asked to become Director of the Radcliffe College Fund in the 1970s.  She was promoted to Director of Development and Alumnae Affairs in 1977.  In 1979, Mrs. Wigglesworth moved to Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital to become Director of Development.  She also was a member of the Radcliffe College Board and helped to shape the integration between Radcliffe and Harvard. Her last professional position was in the Office of Career Services at Harvard University, where she was the pre-medical advisor, a return to the close work with students that she had previously enjoyed. 

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than involvement with young people,” wrote Mrs. Wigglesworth. 

At Harvard’s Commencement in 1998, Mrs. Wigglesworth was awarded the Harvard Medal, which is annually given to individuals for “extraordinary service to Harvard University.” 

Mrs. Wigglesworth’s work in community causes and fundraising went well beyond her professional years.  As a volunteer, she led fundraising efforts for the Ipswich Library and, most recently as she approached 90 years old, for the capital campaign of the Ipswich Museum. 

Terry Stevens, Director of the Museum, said, “Hope could work with people at all levels, and she did everything with a smile.”

Mrs. Wigglesworth’s faith in humanity and hope for its improvement led her well beyond fundraising.  “My mother had a cool head and a warm heart,” said her son Andrew. 

In 1997, she was instrumental in the creation of the Ann Harvard Society, which helps spouses of deceased Harvard alumni stay connected to the University.  In addition she also devoted her service to the Trustees of Reservations, including serving as the first female vice-president of the Standing Committee. She also served on the Boards of Directors for the United Way of the North Shore and the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

In Ipswich, Hope served on the Vestry Committee of the Ascension Memorial Church and as co-chair of the Discernment Committee, which selected the current rector.  She was a member of the Ipswich Democratic Committee, a delegate to the Democratic State Convention, and regularly worked the voting polls in Ipswich.

“We all want to be able to contribute in some way,” Hope wrote,” and I think Ipswich is a welcoming community for anyone who wants to get involved.  It has an all-encompassing warmth to it.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I can thank Ipswich for much of what I’ve done in my life and for the many roads I have traveled.” 

She had a reputation for “gentle determination”, her children noted.  Her son David added, “Mom treated everybody she encountered with the same level of respect and importance.” 

Hope is survived by her daughter Henrietta and husband Peter Lodge, and their children John and Benjamin, of Patterson, NY; son John and wife Priscilla Brooks, and their children Nick and Rosie, of Ipswich; son Andrew and his wife Robin Lacey of Merion Station, PA, and his children Haley, Caroline, and Harrison; and son David and wife Rayna Swanson, and their children Kestrel and Talven, of Anchorage, AK. 

A celebration of Hope’s life will be held at Ascension Memorial Church, 31 in Ipswich on June 24 at 2 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, contributions in her name may be made to Ascension Memorial Church, 31 County St., Ipswich or to the Ipswich Museum, 54 S. Main St., Ipswich, MA 01938.  

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