Helen Serfis Russell
Helen Serfis Russell of Northville, NY, passed away with her family by her side on Saturday, August 4, 2018, at the age of 92 at Mountain Valley Hospice in Gloversville, NY.
Helen was born on Dec. 12, 1925, to Herman and Ruth Serfis. She graduated from Northville Central School in 1944 as Salutatorian. In 1948, she received a bachelor of arts in music education from Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and went on to earn a master’s in voice.
On June 19, 1948, Helen married Robert Russell. After beginning her teaching career at Northville Central School, Helen joined her husband as a teacher for the Johnstown School District. During her 26 year tenure, she and Robert became known as Ma and Pa Russell to the countless students they took under their wings, sharing their love, joy and music. Robert died in 2002 after the couple celebrated 54 years of marriage, an inspiration to all who knew them.
In 1994, Helen was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Johnstown Music Department for her years of tireless service and dedication to music and music education. Helen’s teaching also extended to her home with countless piano students, whom she continued to work with until 2015 at the age of 89.
Helen was choir director and organist at Northville United Methodist Church for 65 years, while also acting as choir director and organist for the Northville Presbyterian Church for 20 years. In 2012, Helen conducted her final and 65th annual community Christmas concert, and was named Music Director Emeritus of Northville United Methodist Church.
She was a guest conductor for various county music festivals, including the 1980 Winter Olympics Festival at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Helen was very active in community theater and music productions, specifically St. John’s Presents, Colonial Little Theater, Union Hall Inn Players, Bats Bay Productions, Sr. Citizens Chorus, Council of Churches Concerts and Ensemble Music Club. She was an avid Yankees fan.
Helen was awarded the 2000 Liberty Bell Award, which is presented to an individual recognizing their dedicated service to the community. In 2001 she received the Dewitt Clinton Award on behalf of Masonry by Fish House Masonic Lodge 278, which recognizes outstanding public and community service.
“Lala,” as she was affectionately called by her family, is survived by her daughters, Lynne (Patrick) Barnett and Luann Russell; six grandchildren, Erin (Jerry) Gretzinger, Burke (Katie) Barnett, Meg (Caleb) Bronz, Ryan Bromford, Joshua Rose, and Christopher Rose; nine great-grandchildren; and her brother, Larry (Janis) Serfis; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. She was pre-deceased by her brother, Robert (Alice) Serfis.
The celebration of Helen’s life will be held at the United Methodist Church of Northville, 301 S. Main on Sunday, August 12, 2018. The family will greet relatives and friends from 2 to 3 p.m. followed by a memorial service at 3 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be sent to Sarah Jane Sanford Home, Amsterdam, NY and Mountain Valley Hospice, Gloversville, NY. The family would like to sincerely thank them for the compassionate and wonderful care that Helen and her family received. Arrangements are under the direction and care of the Northville Funeral Home. Condolences may be made to the family online at www.northvillefuneralservice.com.