BUCYRUS – Matriarch of Bucyrus, beautiful lady and talented, strong woman are just some of the ways people across the county are describing Helen Alice Picking Neff, who died at the age of 99 on Sunday.
Helen, a 1933 graduate of Bucyrus High School, held a bachelor’s degree in speech and a master’s degree in theatre. After a few years working as a teacher, Helen began working for the American Red Cross. After a few years, she went back to her first passion, theatre, working in Gulfport, Mississippi until 1969.
When Helen made her way back to Ohio, she landed the position as managing director of the Mansfield Playhouse. Helen was also very involved with the Bucyrus Little Theatre and directed many productions there.
Bucyrus native Mary Wendelken, who now resides in Florida with her daughter, Sophie, was once a drama student of Helen.
“Helen was my drama coach at “The Little Theater” in Bucyrus when I did Community Theater, back in the day. She was also the wife of one of my dad’s best friends, Robert Neff. She was demanding, perfectionistic, and a true artist,” Wendelken said. “When she complimented you, you remembered it. You’d worked hard to earn it. Bless her, and God hold her.”
Last year, Cathy Cook directed the production of, “Once Upon a Mattress,” after acting in the play 40 years prior, under the direction of Helen.
“It was the first play she directed at the Little Theatre, and she was such an inspiration to me that it really changed my life,” said Cook previously.
The play’s two weekend run was dedicated to Helen and she was thrilled. She had said at the time that she was honored and had so much fun directing the play in 1974.
Helen, who married Robert Clark Neff in 1975, enjoyed her role as stepmother to Robert Clark Neff Jr. and Cynthia Neff Schifer, along with being step-grandmother to Alexander Clark Neff.
Helen was involved in many community-based boards, programs and businesses across the city.
Helen’s grandfather, Charles F. Picking, was once the mayor of Bucyrus and her great-grandfather, Daniel Picking, founded the D. Picking and Company, known world-wide for its copper kettle production.
Helen’s father, Robert Picking, eventually took over the business and when he died in 1983, Helen became the owner and operator of the business, located at 119 S. Walnut St.
A memorial service will be held at 2 pm. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church in Bucyrus.
Deb Pinion, director of the Bucyrus Area Chamber of Commerce, said there was only one Helen Picking Neff.
“She was one of a kind. They aren’t making those anymore; the mold has been broken,” Pinion said.
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