Helen M. Zolczer of Homosassa, Fla., a retired Maryvale Elementary School employee who won a brief burst of fame as a teenager thanks to a Hollywood cowboy, died Monday at her home while under the care of Hospice of Citrus County. She was 83.
Born Helen Millikin in Glasgow, Scotland, she moved at age 4 with her family to Buffalo, where she graduated from Lafayette High School.
She was working as a soda jerk at a drugstore when she entered a national contest to name the faithful horse of clean-cut cowboy Hopalong Cassidy, according to her daughter, Pamela of Homosassa.
The company sponsoring the contest selected Mrs. Zolczer's suggestion, "Topper," and awarded her a bicycle and a watch. "That was her 15 minutes," Pamela Zolczer said.
Mrs. Zolczer was dating her future husband, Louis, at the time, and she gave him the bicycle. He sold it and used the money to pay his way to the 1939 New York World's Fair. Pamela Zolczer isn't sure if he took her mother, but figures he did.
Mrs. Zolczer, known as "Ella," worked as a registrar at Maryvale Elementary School for more than 30 years, retiring in the mid-1980s.
She belonged to Cleveland Drive Presbyterian Church in Cheektowaga for 50 years and was a founding charter member of the Cheektowaga Lioness Club.
Mrs. Zolczer was a member of the Betsy Ross-Levant Chapter No. 695 of the Order of the Eastern Star for 59 years. She also belonged to the Rebekah Lodge and the Athor Temple No. 19 Daughters of the Nile, both Masonic women's organizations.
For the past six years, she spent summers in Western New York and winters in Florida, where she moved permanently about one year ago.
Her husband died in 1986.
Survivors include a son, Robert of New Fairfield, Conn.; a daughter, Pamela of Homosassa; a brother, John C. Millikin of Sun City Center, Fla.; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in Crystal River, Fla. Burial will be in Acacia Park Cemetery, Pendleton.