Obituary: Helen von Seggern, Founder of the Burbank Parent Education Program

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Helen von Seggern

Helen von Seggern was born December 12, 1913, in Salt Lake City, but when she was quite young, the family moved to Los Angeles. After finishing at UCLA, her first teaching position was in Escondido, California, teaching English at the high school.

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After her second year of teaching, she signed up for a cycling trip in Europe. She had a reason to be anxious—since she had never ridden a bicycle! Another summer, she spent working on the construction of Camp Pendleton. For her clerical job, she had the impressive title of “Secretary to the Master Mechanic.” It was in Escondido where she met her future husband Ernest, a native son from a pioneer family and a research engineer. They were married there in 1943 and had enough gas coupons to spend a short honeymoon in Laguna Beach. They soon moved to Burbank, and though housing was very scarce during those war years, they were fortunate to find a house to buy—where Helen lived until a few months before her passing.

Helen von Seggern

The focus of their lives were their three children—Ernest, Albert, and Frances—whether it was their Scout groups, children’s choirs, or school activities. Music in the family started early. Ernest played both piano and clarinet, and as soon as the children were able, Sunday evenings were saved for family music. It was Ernest and Ernie on the clarinet, Albert on flute, and Frances on cello. Helen played piano until the others so surpassed her in skill that she was wise enough to move to the cheering section. Camping was something the family enjoyed for a number of years. A favorite campsite was Whitney Portal.

After the children were in school, Helen began teaching part-time at Burbank Adult School, which she chose because she could teach mornings and be home in the afternoons for the children. She taught English and Parent Education classes, and it was the later that became the focus of her efforts. Eventually, she became coordinator of the department, which met the needs of about 500 parents each year and provided many personal rewards. It came as a surprise when it was decided that the newly renovated auditorium of the Burbank Adult School was named in her honor. Next came the difficult decision to retire in 2001 after 42 years of teaching.

Travel enriched her life. Trips with Ernest included Europe, the Mayan Peninsula, South America, and the British Isles. These came to an end when Ernest died in 1991. Then there were four immensely satisfying trips with church groups led by Larry Stamper.

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The First United Methodist Church was always important to her. She taught Sunday School, was a representative to the Annual Church Conference, was a founding member of Friends of Music, and was on the Music Committee for many years. For eight years, she and Janie Lloyd worked to bring the church history up to date.

Superintendent Matt Hill chats with Helen von Seggern at the 2017
State of the Schools Breakfast (Photo supplied by BUSD)

She was initiated in her P.E.O. Chapter in 1947 and into Delta Kappa Gamma (an organization for key women educators) in 1970. Helen loved flowers and that’s why she enjoyed working in her garden. For years, she took a Monday bouquet to the Adult School office—even after she retired!

She had a positive attitude towards life, an enthusiasm for many things: people, music, art galleries, museums, reading, travel, and baking cookies to share with friends. She was a life-long learner, eager for any new experience, with enthusiasm for each new day and its promise. One of her goals was to provide happy memories for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Helen passed peacefully on January 7, 2021. She is survived by her children Ernest (Karen), Albert (Janie), son-in-law Phil, nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Any memorial gift may be made in Helen’s name to the Organ Fund at:

Burbank First United Methodist Church 700 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank, CA 91502