Helen Louise Peters of the Town of Tonawanda, who had a 55-year career as a dance instructor, died Sunday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a brief illness. She was 74.
Born Helen Potempa in Buffalo, she was a graduate of Kensington High School and Bryant & Stratton Business Institute. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Canisius College. Continuing at Canisius, she became the first person in the Buffalo area to earn a master's degree in dance, augmenting her studies in New York City and Chicago.
She also studied dance with the renowned Broadway choreographer Gower Champion and with Fred Kelly, brother of noted dancer Gene Kelly.
Mrs. Peters owned and operated the Peters School of Dance in Alden and was co-owner of and teacher at the Dancing Pointe in Williamsville. She also taught acrobatics and choreographed musicals for Williamsville Community Education.
She served as inspiration to generations of young dancers. Some went on to dance with the New York City Ballet and with Carol Channing on Broadway. Many opened their own studios.
"It wasn't a job to her," her daughter, Kathleen Konitsch, said. "It was her heart and her life."
Mrs. Peters was a charter member of the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists. She was former New York State supervisor for the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters.
The mother of four, she enjoyed Friday night movies with her friends and was especially devoted to her grandchildren. She and her husband traveled extensively in their motor home with the Happy Old Travelers Society.
Her husband of 41 years, Ernest G., died in 2000.
Surviving are two daughters, Kelly Stolar of Erie, Pa., and Kathleen Konitsch of Clarence; a son, Scott of Amherst; and seven grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered today in St. Edmund's Catholic Church, Town of Tonawanda. Burial was in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Cheektowaga.