Horizon House Blog

Connie Hellyer

Connie Hellyer was born in the latter years of the Depression and grew up mainly in the Tacoma suburb of Lakewood. She was the eldest of three sisters. Her father was a pediatrician and her mother a Girl Scout troop leader and Tacoma Philharmonic booster.

The Hellyer family’s happy place was a cabin on a lake near Eatonville. Years later, her parents generously donated their land – almost a square mile – to Tacoma as a wildlife park. Northwest Trek is now one of the great treasures of Washington State.

Connie graduated from Clover Park High School in 1955, where she was active in chorus and debate. Public high school taught her that she had it easier than some. One day in French class, a boy fell asleep at his desk. The teacher, with a gentle smile, did not wake him. The other students showed surprise. “He works nights,” the teacher explained.

Connie went on to Mills College in California, majoring in European Civilization. She enjoyed writing a culture column for the school newspaper and participating in Model United Nations as a delegate for the Sudan.

After graduating in 1959, Connie landed a job as a grader at Harvard Business School. Typical for the time, all the students were male and their graders all female. Connie soon moved from Cambridge to New York to work at Newsweek magazine, beginning as a mail girl and rising to editorial researcher – then top of the female ladder. She worked first on the Periscope, and then the Science, and Medicine pages. There from 1961 to 1964, she loved the constant learning curve of journalism.

Connie then had an amazing opportunity to work with Pulitzer Prize winning author Theodore H. White. She was his sole assistant as he wrote The Making of the President 1964 (Atheneum, 1965). This was the authoritative story of the Lyndon B. Johnson—Barry Goldwater presidential contest. White wrote an endearing acknowledgement:

“Lastly, I must thank my staff—which is Mrs. Constance Hellyer, an ever cheerful, untiring young lady whose scholarship equals her dedication. Her passion for accuracy and good phrasing have given this book much of whatever merit it may have; and whatever mistakes it may contain, either errors of fact or interpretation, are my responsibility alone.” —Theodore H. White, New York, May 1, 1965

In late 1965, Connie gave birth to her first child. When she returned to work, it was part time in project development at American Heritage Publishing Company, also in New York City.

Her second child was born in 1969, shortly before the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. There she started her writing career by freelancing for Glamour and other publications. Her favorite article, on Victorian polymath Sir Francis Galton, appeared in the English magazine, History Today.

In 1973, Connie and her family moved to Palo Alto. She worked as a writer and editor in the Stanford orbit before joining Stanford Law School. As communications director, she edited and wrote Stanford Lawyer (the alumni magazine), press releases, and development publications. Connie loved the license to interview professors about their work. She retired after 17 years in 1997.

On a totally different track, Connie and her second husband started a swing and jazz octet called String of Pearls. Connie played piano and served as “chick” singer. They performed for twenty years in the San Francisco Bay area, recorded two albums, and made three “friendship tours” to China (1999, 2001 and 2002). The couple then semi-retired to Cannon Beach, Oregon, where the band was reconstituted and performed until her husband’s death in 2004. It was in Cannon Beach that Connie and Frank Little became friends and then partners.

Connie’s two daughters are both in Seattle. Anne, an MBA from UW, is a marketing consultant. Stephanie, a JD from Seattle University, is an appellate lawyer and mother of Connie’s two adored grandchildren, William, 15 and Caroline, 11.

Connie and Frank have lived at Horizon House since 2009. Both are big supporters of the Employee Education Fund. When asked why the fund appeals to her, Connie cites family and friends who needed a boost to fulfill their dreams. She feels that our Employee Education Fund is a wonderful way to make a difference to our staff in need of financial aid. Amazingly, since 2009, generous Horizon House residents have given scholarships to deserving staff in the amount of $421,000! Thank you, Connie, for all you do to help our staff reach their potential!

Parting words from Connie: “Be glad for what you’ve had—not sad for what you’ve lost!”

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