The Last Word

By Marjory D. Lyons, B.A.’50, M.S., Ph.D.

Marjory Lyons and Helen Jones Warner
During their visit, Marjory D. Lyons, in red, and Helen Jones Warner, her former teacher and fellow alumna, shared memories of their undergraduate years at the University at Albany.

Standing in line at the UAlbany alumni luncheon in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, I heard the woman ahead of me introduce herself: “Helen Jones Warner.”

“Who?” I sputtered. “My high-school English teacher and UAlbany grad, Helen Jones Warner?” 

Later, I visited Helen at her home in Delray Beach. Smiling, she exclaimed, “Oh, I would have known you anywhere!” We settled on the couch and looked at photos in my 1950 Pedagogue. Helen smiled at pictures of Hawley Hall and Minerva. In The Crystal – the 1946 yearbook from my alma mater, Port Jefferson High School in Long Island, N.Y. – my former teacher pointed to students and faculty, recognizing them from 68 years before and asking about them.  

We later spoke about our experiences at UAlbany. As 17-year-olds from tiny New York towns (Granville for her; Miller Place for me), we were the first in our families to attend college. I asked, “How has your education been important to you?” Helen paused, then laughed: “Well, I’m glad I got it! And it got me a job!” 

Helen’s education also benefited the South Florida medical community. Told by her doctor that Boynton Beach’s Bethesda Hospital needed a medical library but lacked funding, Helen enrolled at UAlbany, “substituting in libraries for the experience.” While she earned her degree, funds were raised for the facility – and, on graduating, Helen started the medical library. Today, the plaque at the library honors Helen Jones Warner for her 15 years of service.

As teacher and librarian, Helen was happy with her life. “I liked getting along with a variety of people,” she said. I nodded, transfixed that my teacher, almost 100, was telling me about her life and work. 

“People used to think that libraries were just books,” said Helen. But they are actually media centers “with pictures and movies” that afford young people, especially, access to information. “That’s the key, access!” Helen added. 

Helen Jones Warner, B.A.’36, M.L.S.’67, passed away  June 6. Her former student, Marjory D. Lyons, B.A.’50, M.S., Ph.D., is founder and president of Telling Your Story, a specialty publishing company producing books of memoirs, life stories and business histories for private clients.