February 5, 1948 - July 10, 2020 Helen Theresa Fithian Kerns Devlin was born the eldest of five sisters and two brothers in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 5th, 1948. She buzzed around non-stop on this earth, greatly surpassing her 10k steps as a daily goal, helping, serving, and inspiring others for 72 strong years. After almost three years of surviving two types of lung cancer, Helen left this world we know on July 10, 2020. In 2017, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, Helen found inspiration from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Lacks is known for her cervical cancer cellsalso referred to as "immortal cells" which were harvested from her body months before her death in the 1950's. Being the unique person that Helen was, with two different types of lung cancer, she really stumped her doctors. Which doesn't surprise anyone because why be predictable when you can be Helen? We can dream that the last samples taken of her cancerous cells could change the course of lung cancer research. Like Henrietta's cells, Helen's personality and presence are what are immortal here. Helen lives on in everyone she cared about; she was our immortal cell. The lessons, experiences, and tough mentality she instilled in all those close to her will continue to grow over and over again for many years to come. Helen was preceded by her parents, Helen and Joe Kerns and Frank Fithian, and brothers Francis Xavier Fithian and baby Joseph Kerns. She is succeeded by her three children, Thomas III (Monica), Patrick (Jessica), and Aileen (Sindhur), two granddaughters, Paige and Grace, sisters Ann Marie (Ed) DiMaio, Kathleen (Rob) Nathan, Mary (Jeff) Pancoast and Bernadette (Joe) Foster, sister-in-law Kathleen (Dave) Authenreith, as well as many nephews and nieces too numerous to mention. Let's not forget about her "other family" the countless students who also called her mom. During her 14 years as an at-risk counselor with Hickory High School, she built a program that supported students from all walks of life. She encouraged, sacrificed, and protected those children like her own. She proudly self-proclaimed herself the "Drill sergeant, mentor, and mother" to her school kids. There was even a "Devil Woman" nickname that we can neither confirm nor deny. She leaves behind her life partner, best friend, husband, and to pull a direct Helen quote "the best thing that ever happened to me," Thomas Devlin, Jr. Married for 48 years, these two were the best parents anyone could ask for. Tom and Helen shared endless adventures together all while capturing their moments with photography, where Helen possessed a flawless talent for blinking during special photo-ops, flash or no flash. Still, Helen was always Tom's favorite photographic subject. Helen was a force to be reckoned with and her list of accomplishments speak for themselves. A long career established in education, volunteering with local service groups like Kiwanis, Key Club, West Piedmont Symphony, Red Hat Society, Hickory Public Library, and Catawba Valley Medical Center where she was a baby cuddler (she enjoyed this immensely). She got things done and if something didn't sit well with her, you can bet there would be a strongly worded letter to the management. If you traveled anywhere in townor even out of the statewith Helen, you weren't going to get there on time. She couldn't get half a mile without running into a friend or someone she vaguely recognized enough with whom she could hold a surprisingly lengthy conversation. She will be truly missed by all her conversation companions. This was a sudden blow to a tight community but let us keep Helen's legacy immortal and always know how "small town, big Helen" still grows in our hearts and in our memories. Helen did not wish to receive flowers or gifts but rather donations be made to https://www.lungcancerinitiativenc.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.main in her name. No other reception or service will be held at this time. This is in keeping with Helen's wishes and concerns for the need for social distancing due to COVID. Stay on the lookout for a Celebration of Helen's Life around St. Patrick's Day, 2021. Hickory Funeral Home www.hickoryfh.com
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