Helen Hill – R.I.P.

by angeliska on January 5, 2007

Early Thursday morning, around 5:30am
my friend Helen Hill was murdered in her home.
Her dear husband Paul was shot, but is in stable condition.
Their little boy Francis was unhurt, thank god..
I feel so much for him, and his dad..
I know what it is to lose your mama,
to never know her, never get to experience
what a bad-ass woman she was..
This is so wrong, I don’t even know how to write about it.
All the same, I want to say something- I have to,
no sleep on the horizon now- only grieving for
a family who truly emanated light and joy,
sweetness and calm whenever I happened upon them..

Helen was such a kind and open person-
bursting with enthusiasm for life and her myriad projects,
always smiling, always excited about being in the world.
I know everyone’s eulogy begins like that,
and we all think, “Oh, sure..”
but honestly, I can’t think of a more loving soul.
I am not understanding life’s lessons today.
It makes no sense to me why or how this could have happened.
I have no words of wisdom, no peaceful sentiments
to impart regarding the destruction of goodness.
If someone could explain it to me, I’d be all ears.

Everyone who knew them is saying the same thing-
that you could not hope to meet a nicer pair of people,
and it’s true..
They both worked tirelessly
with Food Not Bombs
and were so active in the community-
always involved, always helping..
Paul is a doctor and musician,
and Helen was
(there’s that horrific past tense, goddammit)
a filmmaker, experimental animator
and teacher
and mother
and wife
and friend.

Baby Francis Pop
Paul and Helen’s house was destroyed in Katrina,
but still they returned- determined to clean up,
pick up the pieces and continue living in New Orleans.
Even though her films were damaged and mostly
ruined by the mucky water, she continued to fight
to preserve her work- and to show the films
in their new, altered state.
Decay that tells a story-
before and after.
Her stories are worth taking the time to read-
to be inspired by the next time something
seems so insurmountable..
She just took it on, always smiling..
Here are some links that can tell you more:
Goodbye, Dear Helen
An excellent article about the preservation of her films..
Helen and her films in the Gambit Best of New Orleans
Her bio at the Atlantic Film-makers Cooperative
Media Arts Fellowship
And a very sweet short film with Helen and Paul
and their pig, Rosey, eating a meal in their
beautiful kitchen, before the storm.

The last time I saw Helen was Mardi Gras day.
She stopped me in the gathering crowd
on Chartres Street by the Friendly Bar
and handed me this post card:

Francis Pop Gailiunas, a New Orleans native,
dresses up as Cupid for Mardi Gras 2006.

and a stamped postcard addressed to Paul that read:
What’s a good reason to come back to New Orleans?
Please help me convince Paul!
Write it down or draw a picture on the other side
and send this off to Paul by August 2006.
Include your return address and we’ll write you back.
Thanks so much, Helen

I never sent it.
I could think of reasons,
to go back, to stay away –
but I didn’t feel right about trying to
convince him when I hadn’t stayed myself.
Holding that pale blue rectangle of paper now,
a year ago – her hand holding it,
handing it to me.
Hugging her and wishing her luck
in the street on that bright day.
So fucking far away now.
She had so much faith in that city,
and I won’t say she was wrong to-
I won’t say the city killed her,
because it was a man, or men-
neglected and abused by a system
that transformed them into murderers.
My friend Jai says that she was the
kind of person who would have
forgiven them.
I think he’s right, but I hope
they get caught and go down,
and soon.
I’m trying so hard to not have
hard and bitter thoughts right now-
trying to send Paul and Francis
love and hope instead..

This is a portrait Paul did of Helen at one of our
Cabaret Revoltaire Dada Extravaganzas..
It says, “EARLY TO RISE”..
She did one of him as well,
both so sweet and amazing-
both salvaged from my own
ravaged house and covered
with streaks of black mold.
I think it is such a perfect
and accurate capturing
of her radiant spirit,
her will to overcome.

Oh Helen – you will be dearly missed..


[…] ones being made victims, but at the same time, I don’t want them to abandon their home. After Helen was murdered, I had to stay away for a while. The fear and despair overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t be there […]

by Angeliska Gazette › Jon Flee – R.I.P. on December 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm. Reply #

[…] deserves to die, or be murdered, but why take away from this world the ones who add the most to it? Five years ago, when my friend Helen was shot in her house by would-be robbers, I wrote […]

by Angeliska Gazette › A FRESH WOUND IN THE WING OF THE YOUNG YEAR on January 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm. Reply #

[…] Helen Hill […]

by Feast of All Souls « Angeliska Gazette on December 7, 2012 at 12:47 am. Reply #

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