Helen Frye White Eckel, 99, New Canaan Resident

NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- Helen Frye White Eckel died on Oct. 5 at her home in New Canaan. She was 99.

Helen Frye White Eckel

Helen Frye White Eckel

Photo Credit: Contributed

Born Feb. 5 in Medford, Mass. to William Frye and Charlotte Wilson White, Eckel was the youngest of three girls. She earned the nickname “Goldie” for her intentions were reportedly always “good as gold.” Her sisters Charlotte and Elizabeth known as “Sis” and “Bunny” predeceased her.

Her great grandfather, William Pierce Frye, was a U.S. Senator for Maine and one of the founding settlers of a summer resort colony on Squirrel Island, Maine -- where Helen hosted friends and family visits for decades.

Helen loved God and Christian Science and was further impassioned by nature, poetry and theater.

When she was a teenager, Helen attended the all-girls preparatory Brimmer School in Chestnut Hill and first worked as a Filene's model exhibiting the latest dresses, coats and hats for in-store fashion shows. 

Helen performed at Squirrel Island in summer plays produced by her Uncle Claggett Wilson, who was a renowned painter with strong ties to the theater world as a set designer and friend of the Broadway duo Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. But her father, a Boston lawyer, felt theater was a bad place for a woman to be and asked Claggett not to encourage her down that path.

Instead, Helen's uncle supported her interior design talents as she got her own business off the ground in Greenwich, and later in Hingham and Cohassett, Mass. 

She is survived by her two sons, Jeff Read from Westport. and Claggett Read from Darien as well as numerous grandchildren and a great-grandchild. She was predeceased by her husband Oliver Eckel, who died in 1989.

A memorial service will be held at Squirrel Island next summer. Donations may be made to the Squirrel Island Chapel gardens.

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