Beloved TPC member Helen McDonald entered the Church Triumphant on Feb. 1, 2022.
Helen Blair McDonald • Feb. 24, 1930 – Feb. 1, 2022
Memorial Service • Thursday, Feb. 10, 4 p.m., Sanctuary
Visitation • Thursday, Feb. 10, 3 p.m., Sanctuary
Committal Service • Friday, Feb. 11, 11:30 a.m., Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell
Helen Blair McDonald was a classic southern lady—a charming, loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend who was a Proverbs 31 woman in every sense.
Born in Birmingham, AL, Helen was the youngest daughter of Robert Swan Blair and Marion Aitken. She had seven siblings: Robert Blair (deceased); Marion Ruff (deceased); Pete Blair (deceased); Margaret Jean Chasteen (deceased); Johnny Blair (deceased); Elizabeth Dietz and Jessie Roach (deceased).
Helen met her beloved husband Payton Ray McDonald, Jr. through Christian Endeavor at the Wylam Presbyterian Church (near Birmingham) in 1948. They married at that same church in 1951 and celebrated 65 years of loving and laughing together in 2016.
Helen and Ray were blessed with four children: Ray McDonald, III (Laurie); Cathi Patton; Teri Sietsma (David); and Bob McDonald (Cheryl). Their family also includes nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Helen graduated from Ensley High School outside of Birmingham. She loved her career as an Army wife and mother, courageously embracing experiences that others may have found terrifying. Just a week after getting her driver’s license, she drove from Birmingham to San Francisco with two young children. From there, they flew to Taiwan (a trip that took five days on military aircraft) where Ray was stationed. Helen and Ray’s third child was born in Taiwan.
The McDonalds lived and traveled all over the world. As is customary in the military, they moved frequently, but Helen was gifted at making each new place quickly feel like home. The route of every move to a new duty station included a stop in Birmingham to visit family—even when it was just from Chicago, IL to nearby South Bend, IN. Helen has been to all 50 states, usually traveling by car.
In addition to their mainland duty stations and time in Taiwan, Helen and Ray were able to take their family on assignments in Germany and Hawaii. He also served in Vietnam and Korea. Helen cared for the children and their home with grace and strength during those tours.
One of her greatest gifts to her children and grandchildren was teaching them to use their imaginations and be creative. She was involved in all of their activities and always on the sidelines at games. Despite her diminutive stature, she was never afraid to tell an official he’d made the wrong call.
Helen and Ray moved to Orlando in 1981 when Ray retired from the U.S. Army and began his second career as a planning manager at Martin Marietta. They moved to Winter Springs in 1987.
Helen and Ray were dedicated members of Tuskawilla Presbyterian Church since 1982. Helen served in various capacities, including several terms as moderator of TPC’s Presbyterian Women and on countless committees. The McDonald Conference Room is named as a testament to the love and respect the congregation has for them.
Helen was known for her quick wit, wonderful sense of humor, and eternally youthful mindset. Just minutes after meeting her, you felt like a lifelong friend. She was a talented needlework artist and made more than 100 quilts. She enjoyed playing cards, cooking (especially southern fried chicken) and baking (her specialties included apple strudel, five-layer chocolate cake, and cream puffs), and bowling. In fact, she bowled her last game just two and a half weeks before her death.
A celebration of Helen’s life will be held Thursday, Feb. 10, at Tuskawilla Presbyterian Church, 3600 Aloma Ave. (SR 426), Oviedo. Visitation and viewing at 3 p.m.; service at 4 p.m.
Helen will be laid to rest next to her beloved husband on Friday, Feb. 11, 11:30 a.m., at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.
Helen would very much appreciate donations to Tuskawilla Presbyterian Church in lieu of flowers. Checks may be mailed to 3600 Aloma Ave., Oviedo, FL 32765, or donate online at mytpc.org/giving.