At age 81, Helen Watson of Bay Hill (second from right) is named Bay Hill 9 Holers 1993 champion. (L. to r.) Beachy Harrell and Cindy Bergren tie for third place, and Bobbie Elbert places second.
In 1956, after 12 years at Webber, Helen made the move to Rollins as dean of women. However, she almost quit the day she walked into the cafeteria and saw boys and girls sitting together at long tables, all of whom had to wait in lines to get their food. According to Helen, Webber did things the old-fashioned way. Its female students dressed for dinner, sat at tables adorned with white tablecloths, and were served their meals.
In her role as dean of women, Helen not only oversaw the girls’ academic lives, she became a surrogate parent. When a student went to the hospital, she was there; when they went to jail, she was there; and when they had too much to drink, Helen was there to help them. She commented that she was responsible for every girl on campus 24/7, but insisted she had a great time with her students.
Helen left Rollins in 1965, but not without forging many lasting friendships with her female students. She and Jack never had children. Helen considers all of the students she has taught throughout the years as her children.
“Some of them still call me,” Helen said. “I send out Christmas cards every year, just so they know I am still alive,” she said, smiling.
After 30 years in Winter Park, Helen and Jack moved to Bay Hill in the early 1970s and built a house overlooking the 12th hole of the newly constructed golf course at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
“I am very popular during the tournaments, because I can look out my balcony and see the fairway,” Helen said. Jack quickly developed a passion for the game.
“I started golfing when I realized that if I didn’t I would be a golf widow,” Helen said. True to everything else she undertook in her life, Helen excelled. She golfed well into her 90s, often winning coveted tournaments within her women’s golfing group, the Bay Hill 9 Holers.
Helen has very fond memories of the golf club, when friends and neighbors would gather at the clubhouse for dinners,sometimes with more than 200 guests in attendance. Helen remembers it as a fun time, because they all knew each other and played golf together. She still visits the club weekly for lunch.
Active and engaging, Helen’s keen sense of humor continues to entertain friends and visitors. Through the years, she has cultivated many relationships from her numerous activities, including Bible study at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at Windermere and golfing. Helen also has a love of sewing and has always made her own clothes. Before her eyesight began to fail, she was active in a weekly sewing group. She also keeps busy by exercising on a stationary bike every day.
The 99-year-old comes from a German background, where longevity is not uncommon.
“My father lived well into his 90s,” she said.
In the span of her lifetime, Helen has seen a number of events, inventions and societal changes. She lived through World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Iraq War, the emergence of the automobile as the U.S.’s main mode of transportation, the creation of commercial airlines, and the invention of TV and numerous other technological wonders.
When asked to reflect, Helen insisted that though the country has weathered many challenges, “I think I lived through the best times,” she said.
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