Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Helen Gressett

Helen Gressett

Honored May, 2001

Helen Gressett

Gressett calls herself one year younger than God, but the 84-year-old is not close to acting old yet. On a recent early morning, she answered the phone slightly out of breath: She was in the middle of her pushup routine.

"I stay very active because I think that's the way to live your life," she said. "Be informed and involved."

As a volunteer for the Santa Fe Rape Crisis Center, Gressett helped start the court monitors, a group of trained women who attend and record data about rape trials in the First District Court. Eventually, the 18-member group will publish their results to create awareness about sexual assaults in the area.

For a former social worker in California, volunteering for the crisis center seemed like a natural step once Gressett retired and moved to Santa Fe 12 years ago. Jess, her husband for 51 years, died last year.

On the prevention side, Gressett also teaches fourth-graders how to protect themselves against sexual assaults through the crisis center's Project Aware program. "I just feel very strongly that we need to do everything we can to raise the position of women to equality," Gressett said. "I believe in doing what I believe in and not just sitting by and mouthing sentiments."

After raising her daughter, Jessica, and working for a county welfare office in California, Gressett appreciates having time to pursue her interests now. "I just enjoy every day," she said. "I feel so lucky to wake up and not have a pain in my body and to have so many interesting things to do. It's incredible the feeling of liberation and freedom that what I do with my life is exactly how it turns out."

Biography written by Richard McCord
Photo ©2003 by Steve Northrup