Featured Resident of the Month – Helen Poe

Life is a series of peaks and valleys. At some point in our lives, we experience some of the highest highs and lowest lows. “God works in mysterious ways” is an appropriate fate description of current Collington resident, Helen Poe. A simple Collington video advertisement featuring a current resident surprised Helen as she recognized the person in the ad as a friend who gave her a job in Washington, D.C. fifty years earlier. What a pleasant coincidence and a reassurance that life really does come full circle! This instilled a calm, comforting feeling in Helen. After enduring many hardships and life experiences around the globe, Helen Poe, this month’s featured resident, finally found her way to Collington.

Born in Burma, Helen and her brother were raised by their single mother during World War II. They experienced many hardships and illnesses as they traveled to find better career paths and a stable community. From the Burma Road, which linked Burma to southwest China, Helen’s mother was determined to give her family a fulfilling life. As the first Burmese woman to graduate from Oxford University, Daw Mya Sein had a successful career in history, education, and writing that took her and the family to many places. After realizing the education system in Burma was lacking, Helen’s family moved to England.

Helen’s journey, then, landed her in America where she studied government, political science, and history at George Washington University. However, in 1962 when the military took control over the country, she went back to her family in Burma to assist with the political unrest and be with her husband and two children. For four years under a military dictatorship, day-to-day activities did not come easily. Luckily, Helen’s husband, the first of the Burmese people to receive a bachelor’s degree from Yale in civil engineering, took advantage of his position at a construction company to sell his many properties as a way to take care of his family. Burma’s unrest was troubling. Personal rights were limited and citizens, including Helen and her family, lived in constant fear. There were shortages of food and other essential items necessary for survival. Anyone could be arrested at any time without cause; nobody could be trusted, as any friend or foe might possibly be a government informant. After waiting three years for passports, Helen chaperoned her family to India in 1966 to better her children’s future. A year later, the family was excited to finally find their way to largest city in the world, New York City. This was to be her greatest move!

In 1968, fellow Collington resident, Joseph Howard offered Helen a position at the Library of Congress and she graciously accepted. She received training and a degree in Library Science at the University of Maryland, and was appointed to oversee Library of Congress offices in India and Pakistan. After being appointed Chief of the Asian Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, Helen’s life plan was becoming fulfilled and actualized.

After years of education and hard work, she retired to Kailua, Hawaii where she spent a relaxing twelve years. Despite the beauty in Hawaii, Helen, undeniably, was destined to move back to Maryland to be closer to her daughter. Together, they searched for life plan retirement communities and even toured Kendal at Longwood in PA. Helen’s daughter later searched for Kendal affiliates in Maryland and came across the advertisement video for Collington that connected her with an old friend. The spokespersons in the video were Mr. Joseph Howard and his wife Pat. Joe Howard was that same man who had hired her at the Library of Congress 50 years ago! Both Howards have introduced Helen to many residents, and have gone out of their way to make her feel more than welcome. Living at Collington supports Helen’s desire to spend time with her daughter while she enjoys the friendly, diverse people around her. The open land of over 125 acres, the easily accessible facilities and amenities, the friendly residents, her beautiful one-of-a-kind apartment, and the continuum of care were all factors that enabled Helen to easily call Collington her new home.