Helen Ann Jensen

Helen Ann Jensen (1912-2000) was born to Emery Chris and Esther Lawson Jensen on East Hargrave Street in Athens, Illinois, January 10, 1912, south of the home at the corner of Wood and Hargrave which once had belonged to her great-grandmother, Martha Hall England Swaringuin and second husband Capt. Thomas A. Swaringuin. Helen was descended from the pioneer families of Stephen England, Abner Hall, and John Overstreet which settled in the Athens and Cantrall area in the early 1800s. In 1925, her parents bought the home which had been built by Michael T. Hargrave on Hargrave Street across from the present Athens Athletic Complex.

She graduated from Athens High School in 1930 in the same class as her future husband Herbert Shannon. Helen attended Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, (1930-32) and Illinois State Normal Teachers’ College. Her first teaching job was at Hall School, three miles south of Athens. Helen then taught at Athens Grade School before her marriage to Herb in 1941, and served as a substitute teacher and tutor until returning to full time teaching as an elementary art teacher in 1966. She retired in 1975. Helen lived in Athens her entire life except for a short residence in Memphis, Tennessee, while Herb was in service during World War II. They had three children: William, Barbara, and Janet. Barbara’s twin, Carolyn, died as an infant and is buried in Hall Cemetery.

Helen was actively involved and held offices in several organizations including the Menard County Historical Society, P.T.A., Woman's Club, D. A. R., American Legion Auxiliary, and Eastern Star. Her years of research and efforts at the Athens Municipal Library helped to develop their Heritage Collection, and in 1986 she published a history of Athens. Helen was a talented artist, who taught adult classes at the Athens Library, and sold a large number of mostly landscape paintings after she retired from teaching. Helen had a love for gardening, which gave character and beauty to her beloved home at the end of Lumber Street. She died at Memorial Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, on August 31, 2000, and is buried in Hall Cemetery.


Submitted by Barbara Shannon Cox

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