Helen Duffy, 85, a Toledo Public Schools teacher whose home economics projects often also were lessons in civics, geography, and history, died of a heart attack Tuesday in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
She and her husband, Dr. Franklyn Duffy, a retired dentist, were longtime residents of the Old West End. Their example served to inspire other African-American professionals that Toledo was a good place to live, where they could thrive, Dr. Duffy said.
Mrs. Duffy retired in 1985 from Mayfair Elementary School, where she spent much of her 30-year teaching career. She taught earlier at Gunckel, Lincoln, and Warren schools.
"She was a good cook, a good decorator, a good antique collector," daughter Kathy Duffy Espy said. "It was very natural for her to go into home economics."
But Mrs. Duffy's projects aimed to teach students about life beyond the home. In the mid-1970s, in advance of the national bicentennial, her fourth-grade class made a quilt. Each child signed up for a state square, researched the state's background, and chose an apt symbol. Students wrote to elected officials and famous people requesting their signatures, which in turn were enlarged and embroidered on the appropriate state's square.
"She wanted her students to have a sense of history and that everything didn't begin and end in Toledo, Ohio," her daughter said. "She tried to challenge them always to learn more, to thirst for knowledge. She tried to inspire them to go on to college and expand their lives."
That was Mrs. Duffy's background growing up in Moundville, W.Va. Both parents went to college and "were very diligent about their kids getting an education," her daughter said.
Mrs. Duffy was a graduate of West Virginia State College and had a master of education degree from the University of Toledo. She was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church, where she sang in the choir and took part in many church guilds and committees.
She belonged to many civic, educational, and social organizations. She was an expert in the history of glass, and she was a goodwill ambassador for the Toledo Museum of Art, encouraging people to visit and join.
"She thought a lot of people thought the museum was a stuffy place, but she wanted people to see what it had to offer," her daughter said. "She was very much a person who held out her hand."
Surviving are her husband, Dr. Franklyn Duffy, whom she married March 28, 1942; daughters, Kathy Duffy Espy and Dr. Rosemary Duffy-Cooper; sons, Franklyn Duffy, Jr., and Eugene Duffy; brother, Lawrence N. Jones; eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
The body will be in the parish hall of All Saints Episcopal Church after 9 a.m. Saturday, with wake services at 11:30 a.m., followed by funeral services. Arrangements are by the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to All Saints Episcopal Church building fund.
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