I hate to make my first post of 2007 a sad one, but I just learned about the death of animator and filmmaker, Helen Hill, in New Orleans yesterday. Amid over at Cartoon Brew posted the news and you can read about the story at Columbia, SC's The State Newspaper.
I went to high school with Helen and her mother was my fourth and fifth grade teacher. Perhaps one of my favorite teachers that I ever had. Helen and her husband, Dr. Paul Gailiunas had evacuated New Orleans right before Katrina hit. They almost lost everything. They moved back this year, and began anew. Helen was Visiting artist at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and was working on a short film. Her husband is a Doctor and was working for Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans treating low income families. They have a two year old son. I was on the debate team with Helen and in several classes with her. I remember her as being one of the most creative, genuine, and sweetest people I've ever met. I was lucky to have known her.
About 5am Thursday, Police responded to a call about a shooting and found Paul shot, but alive and holding his son. Helen had been shot and killed. The State reports that Paul was in good condition on Thurday. New Orleans' paper, The Times-Picayune, reports that Helen was the sixth person shot and killed in New Orleans in about a 24 hour span. It's pretty sad that people as good as Helen and Paul, and devoted to teaching and helping others, and trying to help rebuild that city, would be killed by a bunch of low lifes intent on nothing more than destruction. They have got a hell of a lot more to work on in New Orleans than just levees.
Helen's mom introduced me to so many creative activities in the fourth and fifth grade. One of them was making an animated film. We prepared by watching a home made stop motion film Helen and her brother had made. Then we listened to several selections of music and illustrated whatever thoughts came into our heads at the time. I drew a picture of an elephant sucking up a rainbow into his tummy and dancing to the music with the colors swirling about on his stomach. (Hey, I was in fifth grade. Give me a break.). My music was Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag, and I remember Helen coming into class one day to help us on the film. Making that film remains one of my fondest childhood memories, and animation has remained one of the things I am most passionate about.
My prayers go out to Helen's husband and son, and her brother and parents.