July 21, 1934 - December 23, 2022 (age 88)
Mrs. Helle Kaplan passed away peacefully at home in Hoschton, Georgia on December 23, 2022 after a long illness and what she described as “a wonderful life”. She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Dr. Martin Kaplan; her son and daughter-in-law, Dr. Peter Kaplan and Lisa Kaplan, of Suwanee, Georgia; her son and son-in-law, Richard Kaplan and Prof. Timothy Rohan, of New York City, New York and Amherst, Massachusetts; and her grandchildren, Benjamin Kaplan and Elyse Kaplan.
Helle was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in July 1934 to Kai and Else Lemche. She was the second of three children, and the only daughter. Her older brother and sister-in-law, Finn and Jytte Lemche, predeceased her. Her younger brother Leif Lemche lives in Denmark, as do many cousins, nieces, nephews and other extended family.
Helle spent her childhood in Hellerup, Denmark, just north of Copenhagen, surrounded by her grandparents and many uncles, aunts and cousins. Her childhood was a happy one, although impacted by four years of German occupation during World War II. She attended a small, all-girls high school, and after graduating spent time volunteering to help war refugees in Germany and working as an au pair with a Canadian diplomat’s family in London, where she perfected her English.
Helle chose a career in nursing. She received her nursing education in Denmark, graduating from Copenhagen Municipal School of Nursing in 1959. After completing her training, Helle and her nursing school and lifelong friend Rita Friis came to America. Helle first worked as a nurse at a Vermont summer camp, and then obtained a full-time nursing position at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, where she worked in the neurosurgical unit from 1960 to 1961. There she met her future husband, Martin Kaplan, who was in medical school at the time and working in the same hospital. Their courtship took place over several years, in part because Helle had to return to Denmark for two years before marrying Martin due to the terms of U.S. immigration law. She returned by ocean liner in January of 1964 to marry and begin her life in America. They lived in New York City initially, Helle working as a nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital in newborn and premature care from 1964 to 1965, until Peter was born. Martin completed his medical residency training in the United States Air Force, resulting in several moves along the way, including St. Louis, Missouri and San Antonio, Texas, where Richard was born.
Helle and Martin decided to remain in Texas after Martin completed his training and left the Air Force in 1971, settling in the then-new Quail Valley subdivision outside Houston, in Missouri City. While her children attended elementary school, Helle did not work outside the home, but became active in the community and local tennis club. She brought a touch of Denmark to Texas, celebrating Christmas every year with a glogg (mulled wine) party for neighbors and a Danish Christmas tree decorated with real candles. After Richard finished elementary school, Helle returned to full-time nursing as a school nurse at the neighborhood Quail Valley Elementary School. She loved working with small children, and also with the teachers and staff. Her role as a school nurse continued for 23 years, until she retired in 2001.
Among her activities, Helle devoted herself to knitting and needlework, producing countless hats, scarves, sweaters and fine needlepoint treasured by family and friends.
In 2007, after Martin had retired from his medical practice, Helle and he moved to The Village at Deaton Creek in Hoschton, Georgia, to be closer to Peter and their grandchildren, Benjamin and Elyse.
As an immigrant to the U.S., Helle was interested in the differences among cultures and the challenges of immigration and was always curious to meet people and learn about where they were from. In her role as a school nurse, she encountered children from impoverished immigrant families growing up just a few miles from prosperous Quail Valley, and worked with the school district, local churches and private charities to improve lives of those children and their families.
She maintained close ties with Denmark, keeping an active correspondence with family and friends there, and returning almost annually to Denmark for summertime visits. She and Martin both enjoyed travel and took memorable trips around Europe and the U.S., and once to China and Japan in the early 1980s.
Helle made lifelong friends wherever she went, including, among many, Rita Friis, her nursing school friend; Lonni Jensen, a fellow Dane whom she met in San Antonio, Texas; Carolyn Bowden, a next door neighbor in Quail Valley; Charlene Quast, a teacher at Quail Valley Elementary School; Judy Engelstad, a teacher and Quail Valley neighbor; and Dawn Martin, a home care aid with whom Helle became very close in her later years.
Helle will be remembered and missed by all who knew and loved her.