Mary Helen Solomon, Ph.D., beloved matriarch of the Perczak and Haas families, passed peacefully on Feb. 28, at 95.
Mary Helen’s life defied all expectations, both of her gender and the era in which she was born. Born on Nov. 13, 1926, into a conservative sect of the Mennonite church that did not support advanced education, she obtained university, Masters and Ph.D. degrees. She was an enthusiastic mother of two daughters who loved babies, cooked family meals and sewed children’s costumes – all while working full-time as a professor. She was a deeply religious woman who served in Africa as a missionary and was also passionately political – she fought fiercely for minority and women’s rights.
Mary Helen and her first husband Gene Haas both held the core belief that education was the key to a better life. After obtaining a Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of Minnesota, she taught in the vocational education departments at Ohio State, and later, at Colorado State University.
In 1983 she took a sabbatical from CSU to go to Congo as a missionary where she taught gardening and nutrition. While in Congo, she became friends with a young man, Ben Bongutu, whom she sponsored for immigration, and supported through medical school. Ben became a cherished foster son.
Mary Helen retired from CSU in 1986 and became a private chef for a prominent Denver family. She moved to the Covenant Village in 1996 to be near family and start her third occupation, providing childcare for her grandchildren. She met her second husband, Delbert Solomon, at the Village and married there in December of 1997. They lived full lives together at the Covenant Village community and friendship amongst the many wonderful residents and staff. Del passed in November of 2010.
Mary Helen is survived by survived by daughters Mari Perczak (Greg) and Cynthia Savage (Chris Wallwork); foster son Dr. Ben Bongutu (Young); older brother Homer Kraybill; grandchildren Erin Perczak (Kelly), Anna Perczak (Steve Mendelsohn), Leah Perczak (Jason Ellinwood), Thomas Savage, Benjamin Bongutu, Jimmy Choi and five great grandchildren.
The family thanks her loving caregivers who provided around the clock care in her later years.
A celebration of Mary Helen’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on March 12 in Smith Chapel at the Covenant Village in Westminster. Donations can be made to Covenant Benevolent Fund, c/o Covenant Living Colorado, 9153 Yarrow St., Westminster, CO 80021.