"Rescue" has been a recurrent theme in Helene's life. Coming to America from Germany at age seven with her physically and sexually abusive father, and her developmentally disabled German-Jewish mother, Helene was eventually rescued by her grandmother and declared a ward of the California courts. She was then placed in many temporary foster homes. Throughout these difficult times, Helene would temporarily escaped into the world she sketched and colored.
At age 14, Helene was kidnapped, tortured, and eventually left abandoned in a parking lot. Her perpetrators were never caught. Unfortunately, no one was able to rescue young Helene from this excruciating experience, so she had to find her own way of dealing with the pain. She turned to drawing as a form of healing.
After her siblings grew up and moved out, Helene bought ten acres of Redwood Forest in northern California. She chose this location to rescue many beautiful Redwood trees from logging. She built her dream home there and eventually adopted several unwanted cats, providing them with a loving home. Each summer, Helene traveled the world and led student peace tours. By 1989, Helene had finally put her painful past behind her.
Then on November 3, 1990, there was another cruel twist of fate. Two cars rear-ended a vehicle in which Helene was a passenger, catapulting her into life with a permanent disability. She suffered severe back injury. No longer able to teach and in severe pain, Helene reached out to an old friend, her creative spirit.
As Helene explained, "Art and creativity helped me endure my painful childhood. I have had much practice turning difficult times into positive experiences. Making the best of hard times has been my main challenge in life. Like many other survivors, I have been guided by a creative spirit."
Helene added, "The accident devastated me because all I ever wanted was to be a teacher. People knew me as a good teacher and that was my whole identity. I had worked very hard to earn this reputation. With six herniated discs and chronic, acute pain, I was forced into sudden retirement. In my devastation and desperation, I turned to clay."
During her long, slow recuperation, Helene learned what it is like to have an "invisible disability." One cannot see the back pain she and many others like her endure everyday. Interestingly, this "invisible disability" wound up drawing Helene towards the Deaf community. Helene realized that many Deaf people are isolated and misunderstood, as deafness is also something you cannot see.