Gloucester — On July 23, 1925, Katherine Helen Williams was born in Gloucester, Mass. She was the third child born to Uriah Lloyd “Red” and Gertrude Mina (Blake) Williams, following Red’s near-death fishing excursion. The wheels of destiny started to turn in the summer of 1924 when a storm kicked up in the Northeast corner of the Atlantic known as George’s Bank. Uriah, a Grand Banks fisherman originally from Shelborne County, Nova Scotia, married the beautiful Gertrude and made his home in Gloucester and fished on her schooners. During the storm, he and his dory-mate were reported lost at sea. On a crisp autumn day after his funeral, Red returned home with a scruffy red beard and his sea bag over his shoulder to the delight of his wife and two children, Ginny and Bumpsy. The next summer Helen was welcomed into the world and would retell this story of her birth.
Helen grew up shielded from the Great Depression by her parents in a loving home. She played with her friends, loved her kitty, Smokey, and was doted on by her parents and older siblings. On many occasions, the Williams family would travel back to Nova Scotia to visit her father’s family. She attended several public schools including Babson, Collins, Central Grammar, and then graduated from Gloucester High School with honors in 1943. She later graduated from Wilfred Academy in Boston.
During her formative years, Helen, a lifelong member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, sang in the youth choir and because of her remarkable voice, was repeatedly asked to sing solos; this led to professional voice lessons and a passion for music and singing throughout her life. As a young lady she sang in many public venues. She even sang with a “big band” in Boston. However, her love was musical theater and she sang solos in local area performances of "Show Boat," "South Pacific," and many others. Her love of music and singing was impressed upon her children and grandchildren as she sang to them and taught them songs of the 1940s and 1950s.