Helen Anderson MacDonald passed away June 5, 2008, at the age of 92, after complications of hip surgery.

Helen is survived by her husband, Forrest, and daughters Karen M. Rosenthal and Lauren M. Cassatt and their families. We have created this web site in her memory.

Helen's love of water was legendary and she taught thousands of children to swim. Her granddaughter Ariel said it best: "I hope you're floating in a big sparkling swimming pool somewhere, keeping your hair dry and kicking your legs with no pain."

We would love to hear your favorite stories and memories of Helen. Click here to leave a comment.

A celebration of Helen's life will be held Sunday, June 29, at 2 pm at Claremont United Methodist Church, 211 W. Foothill Blvd, Claremont. A reception, Helen's Tea Party, will be held immediately following the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Clan Donald Foundation Inc. or Inland Valley Hope Partners.

More about Helen's life

Helen Christina Anderson was born in Dorchester, Mass., March 7, 1916, to Swedish immigrants Johan and Christina Anderson. She attended Bouvé-Boston College, obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Simmons College in 1937.

Three weeks after graduation she crossed the northern United States by train and traveled by ship from Vancouver to Japan. Miss Bouvé had asked her if she thought her parents would mind if she spent two years with the YWCA in Tokyo educating young Japanese women how to teach physical education. Apparently her parents approved.

She had a wonderful time and made lifelong friends even though the war interrupted communications. “I remember packing small packages of nylons, coffee and candy to send to mother’s Tokyo YWCA friends in the 1950’s and then my parents hosting their children when they visited in the ‘80s,” recalled Helen’s daughter Karen Rosenthal. When she completed her teaching program Helen circumnavigated the globe, sailing up the Suez Canal, riding a camel in front of the Sphinx, crossing the Mediterranean, meeting her parents in Sweden, and arriving in New York the day Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.

Helen had met a young man of Scots descent just before she left for Japan. He left for Costa Rica while she was in Japan. They corresponded until meeting again three years later. Helen and Forrest Fraser MacDonald continued their relationship, and they were married September 5, 1942, while he was serving in the Army Corps of Engineers. They lived in several locations including California and the Washington, D.C. area through 1945.

Three children were born on the East Coast: Karen in Washington, D.C., Lauren in Boston, and Cameron in South Weymouth, Mass.

In 1952 Forrest was recruited by North American Aviation in Los Angeles, and the family moved to El Segundo. Helen began working for El Segundo Unified School District as a swimming instructor and assistant to Coach Urho Saari. She held this position for 25 years possibly teaching almost every public school child in El Segundo how to swim in that time period (perhaps thousands of children). She continued her own education, taking many classes at UCLA, mostly in educational psychology. “She would come home and practice on us,” recalls her daughter Karen.

During the summers, Helen continued teaching private swim lessons even in retirement, teaching the children and grandchildren of her earlier public school students!

Helen was active in Girl Scouting especially with a Senior Girl Scout Mariner Troop, the MSS Felicity Ann; American Field Service; the El Segundo United Methodist Church; the American Red Cross; and the El Segundo Women’s Club. Helen and Forrest were also coordinators/volunteers for the Foreign Student Office at USC and International Student Services at UCLA, meeting, transporting, and hosting students from all over the world. Helen’s daughter Lauren Cassatt remembers, “There were always students from all over the world at our family holiday gatherings. Dad would pick them up at the airport as they were arriving or leaving, and bring them home for the famous MacDonald Thanksgiving stuffing or the Swedish meatballs at Christmas.”

As a family the MacDonalds hosted Wolde Mahetem Meskel, an AFS student from Ethiopia, for his senior year at El Segundo High School in 1966-67. Wolde currently lives with his wife, Yeshi, and family in Fresno.

Even before Forrest and Helen retired they had a great interest in travel. They visited Scotland (10 times); Sweden (three times); Southeast Asia including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia; Japan; the USSR; Canada (where Forrest was born) several times, and throughout the United States.

Forrest and Helen had attended many Highland Games in the 1950’s and 1960’s and in the 1970’s they renewed their interest in all things Scottish. They joined Clan Donald USA, Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS), United Scottish Society, and Clan Donnachaidh. Helen was Clan Donald Regional Commissioner of its South Pacific Region for three years. Forrest and Helen attended 27 of the last 30 Clan Donald Annual General Meetings that were held in different cities throughout the U.S.

Helen enjoyed her Swedish heritage by attending Swedish holiday festivals in the Los Angeles area including the SVEA Christmas Bazaar, Santa Lucia Dinner, and Midsommer. She was a member of the American Swedish Institute.

In 1995 Helen and Forrest’s son Cameron Alexander died of cancer.

In 2000 Forrest and Helen moved from El Segundo to Claremont, Calif. They had enjoyed many visits to Claremont and felt they knew the community well since Karen and her family had lived here since 1970. Helen loved teaching many of her neighborhood children how to swim. She was active in Claremont United Methodist Church and enjoyed the intellectually and spiritually stimulating Growing Christians Sunday School Class.

Helen is remembered by her many friends, neighbors, colleagues, doctors and caregivers as being far younger mentally than her chronological age. She was interested in people and was very welcoming and gracious, always with a smile on her face, according to many of the cards and notes the family has received from all over the world since her death.

She is survived by her husband Forrest of Claremont; her daughters and sons-in-law, Karen and Michael Rosenthal of Claremont and Lauren and Chris Cassatt of Aspen, Colorado; grandchildren Alix Rosenthal and Ariel and David Parrish of San Francisco, Alexander Cassatt of Seattle, and Hayley Cassatt of Los Angeles.

The family would love to hear your favorite stories and memories of Helen. Click here to leave a comment.