April 18, 1920 – Oct. 17, 2018
Helena Hale developed her deep bond with the Italian province of Tuscany during the first years of her life.
Although the former Helena Menchini was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, shortly after her parents emigrated there from Italy, the death of two of her siblings in Canada made them decide to move back to their ancestral home.
They stayed in the mountain village of San Cassiano di Controni, outside Lucca, for six years, then crossed the Atlantic again, this time settling in Buffalo.
Enrolled in St. Michael’s Elementary School, she learned English. She attended Sacred Heart Academy on a scholarship, then studied at the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, becoming a registered nurse.
She was still fluent in Italian when she returned to Tuscany for the first time in 1964 to visit an aunt. She traveled there again dozens of times during the next 40 years, developing many lasting friendships.
She lived there in 1968-69, during her husband’s first term as director of the Siena Program at SUNY Buffalo State, which gave students a chance to spend a semester in Italy.
She shared her affection for the region by establishing the Buffalo-Siena Cultural Council with her husband, and becoming involved in Buffalo-Siena Sister City activities.
She died Oct. 17 in St. Mary’s Catholic Home, Cherry Hill, N.J. She was 98.
After becoming a registered nurse, she worked in surgery at Buffalo General Medical Center and studied at Canisius College.
In a philosophy class there, she met Paul V. Hale, a World War II veteran who went on to be an English professor at Buffalo State. They were married in 1952 in St. Michael’s Catholic Church, which became their home parish.
Mrs. Hale completed a master’s degree in nursing from the University at Buffalo and began teaching nursing in the 1970s at Erie Community College. She retired as a professor at ECC City Campus in the mid-1980s.
In addition to the Buffalo-Siena Cultural Council, she was active in several Italian-American organizations. She was president of the Council of the International Institute and active in its successor, the Buffalo International Council.
She and her husband traveled extensively in Europe and elsewhere abroad. He died in 2008.
In recent years, she stayed in Cherry Hill, near her family.
Survivors include a daughter, Dr. Paula Hale Braunstein, and three grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 2, in St. Michael’s Church, 651 Washington St.