Mother, Educator and Counselor Helen was born April 22, 1918, in Trenton, and died of natural causes in La Mesa, California, January 27, 2005.
Originally from New Jersey she was the first of four siblings. She was the daughter of Hungarian immigrants Andrew Gaydos and Anna Kall. She was preceded by two brothers that had died in early childhood, at least one of them died in the Flu epidemic of 1918. There would be four Gaydos kids: Helen, Margaret, Irene and Irv, after the deaths of the first two children.
Helen spent her grade school years at Holy Angels School in Trenton. Hungarian was spoken at home, English at school therefore Helen and her brother and sisters were bilingual, in English and Hungarian. She attended Hamilton High School and graduated in 1934 at the age of 16 and immediately began clerical work to support her family during the depression years. She eventually would work as a secretary for Trenton State Teachers College where she met her future husband Claude Fell Merzbacher.
During 1942, while still a secretary at the teachers college, she temporarily worked as a newspaper model to support war fund raising efforts. She began attending Trenton State Teachers College at this time and received a B.A. degree in Commerce in 1944. She married Claude F. Merzbacher in 1945 in Pas-A-Grille Beach, Fla. During that busy year she commuted to Trenton from their residence in St. Petersburg, Fla., to complete her teacher training.
They yearned for the drier climate of Southern Calif. and moved to Encinitas, Calif. in 1946. Helen would teach business skills at San Dieguito High School in Encinitas. Claude taught chemistry at Oceanside Junior College and would later become a noted professor of Physical Sciences at San Diego State University. This brought them to San Diego where Helen first taught at Dana Junior High School in 1948.
Helen began the newly formed Master’s Program at San Diego State College. She was the first, with only two other women, to complete their Master’s Program and Thesis in 1950, the first year the degrees were granted. Helen’s thesis was titled “Proposed Business Curricula for Urban High Schools” There were only twelve thesis total that first year. She published several articles on the Business Curricula at this time. This would lead to a lifetime career in Education.
The early 1950’s found her still teaching Business skills, including shorthand and typing to students at Dana Junior High School, then Lincoln High School, Crawford High School, Patrick Henry High School and eventually, she would become a beloved guidance counselor at Clairemont High School for most of the 1970’s.
While working to support a family she would find herself as a single mother in the late 1960’s. She would work and return home to be a parent each day. She persevered to raise her two sons who would eventually grow up and became educators in the San Diego area.
In 1977, Helen was suddenly forced to retire with a debilitating stroke. Her sister Margaret Gaydos soon retired as an English teacher to give care and support for Helen. Although Helen could speak only a few words she survived, independently, for nearly 30 years, in her own home, eventually traveling accompanied by her sister to Budapest in 1980.
She loved nature and gardening. She was a dog lover and could be seen daily, walking through the Allied Gardens neighborhoods, smiling and greeting others for 15 years with her dog Hemingway.
Education: B.A. in Commerce, Trenton State Teachers College, M.A. in Business, San Diego State College, Post – graduate studies at Claremont Graduate School. Doctoral Studies at United States International University School. Teaching Credentials in three states and California, Pupil Personnel Credential. Associations: President of San Diego Chapter of California Business Assoc. (Early 1950’s). Gamma Sigma Sorority. Pi Omega Pi National Education Assoc.
Helen is succeeded by sister Irene Anderson and family of Princeton, NJ, brother Irving Gaydos and family of Pittsgrove, NJ, son Jeffrey Lee Merzbacher and family of Ramona, Calif., son James Merzbacher and wife Marlene of Spring Valley, Calif., two grandsons Sean and Chase of Carlsbad, Calif. A Ceremony and Burial at sea will take place February, 19, 2005 at 10 a.m. near Pt. Loma. Donations may be made to the American Stroke Association.
—San Diego Union-Tribune, published February 18, 2005