Cover photo for Helen Austin's Obituary
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1932 Helen Austin 2023

Helen Austin

October 7, 1932 — February 27, 2023

On Monday, February 27th, 2023, Helen Louise Austin, née Dotson, beloved mother and matriarch, left this world to be with her husband, Colonel Hugh Samuel Austin, at the age of 90. She is survived by her three children Hugh Samuel (Patricia) Austin Jr., Edward Tillman (Marianne) Austin, and Katie Louise (Scott) Faulkner, née Austin; her grandchildren Sarah Ann (Andrew) Loving, Amy Christina Faulkner, Courtney Ann Austin (Robert) Wahl, Katie Samantha (Bradley) Williams, Ryan Austin, and Austin Allen Covington (Yumi) Wilson; and her great-grandchildren Eleanor Ann Loving, Lee Alexander Loving, Emily Irene Williams, Sage Suzanne Wahl, Sadie Grace Wahl, and Eliot Clare Williams. Helen was born in Alexandria, Louisiana on October 7th, 1932, the daughter of John and Katie Dotson. She was raised with her two sisters Edith and Barbara, who would be her bosom friends and companions for the rest of their lives. Helen’s first memory was of riding with Edith in an open-top car just “like the newsreels showed FDR riding in” while her little sister Barbara was being born. Her life to come would be composed of bright and adventurous memories with the family she was given, and the family she would come to create. Helen graduated from Bolton High School in 1950, and studied sociology at Louisiana Tech beginning in 1951. That year she met Sam Austin through a friend, cajoled into a blind double-date with this animated and outgoing boy she’d only seen once before. Over the next few months she came to know him as kind, generous, and gentlemanly, with a spot of jealousy regarding Helen that clinched her attraction to him. They were married on April 3rd, 1953, and at this point Helen’s life exploded in challenge, complexity, and growing joy. She became pregnant with her first child, Hugh “Spike” Austin, just as Sam found his first commission as an officer in the United States Air Force, and the years to come would see her moving with Sam across states and seas – seeing the world with her husband, learning to live without him through spans of military service, and tending to her burgeoning family. She would soon see the birth of her second son, called Eddie by everyone but Helen (until the day of her death, she would call him only “Edward Tillman”), and her only daughter Katie, who would be by her side for the rest of her life, and would come to care for her in her final years. Helen’s life was an unbroken line of talents and proficiencies. A precocious seamstress, she enjoyed sewing, crocheting, and even tatting, and proved a prolific gift-giver. As an officer’s wife, she was often called upon to host parties for military brass, and thrived as a hostess – an equal match for her inclusively friendly and ambitiously social husband. She was also a talented cook, mastering recipes from Louisiana and Cajun fare to French cooking and German cuisine. Helen would teach her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren secrets of curry dishes and koulouria cookies, learned from a lifetime of travels. When her daughter Katie took an interest in competitive horseback riding, she learned to ride herself. She began painting late in life, but tackled this challenge with the same confidence as any of her other pursuits, and found yet another talent with which she could express her creative energies. Signed “Ms Lady” (a moniker bestowed upon her by her teacher), her works were often composed of bright colors contrasted with black: fierce and feminine. Daughters and friends, neighbors and Senators; many in Helen’s Franklin community would come to enjoy her paintings. Late in life, Helen would sit in the afternoon with her great-granddaughter, painting and playing Rummikub, and quietly imparting the lessons of her life. Helen’s social graces and quiet wisdom could belie her inner strength and assertiveness. If she needed something done, she would do it. Helen was the type of person who would visit Spain to see the fabled running of the bulls, only to cheer loudly for the bull. While living in Germany, she joined some friends in a carefully managed excursion to Moscow, at the height of the cold war. Undeterred by conventional wisdom (or the strict guidelines and admonishments of the US government), Helen boarded a plane to the USSR. Secure in the knowledge that her personal safety depended upon maintaining a close proximity to her companions, Helen only ventured off alone a few times. Her strength of character could be seen in other ways as well. She was fiercely protective of her family and loved ones. Choice words and stern looks were only the beginning; Helen was not above painting you out of portraits should you come to deserve it. For the great majority of those fortunate enough to have met her, however, Helen Austin was an exemplar of grace, humor, hospitality, and the kind of wisdom which is earned through hardship and triumph, hard work, and appreciation of beauty: the beauty of the wind on beach sands, of birds in flight above the waves, or of the opening hibiscus. The world is less one force of nature, one unique perspective of a life well lived. A celebration of life will be at 11:00AM Saturday, March 25, 2023 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Franklin, TN. A reception will be held one hour prior to the service at 10AM.

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Reception

Saturday, March 25, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

St. Pauls Episcopal Church

510 W Main St, Franklin, TN 37064

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Celebration of Life

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

St. Pauls Episcopal Church

510 W Main St, Franklin, TN 37064

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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