In Memoriam Helen Overton
Although many recent ND graduates from Bastyr may not recognize her name, Helen Overton was well known and much loved among naturopathic physicians from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. She was the widow of Robert Overton, DC, ND, who—along with other respected elders of Dr. Bastyr’s generation—generously gave of his time and knowledge to train students at NCNM and in his own practice. Many years ago, Helen was granted an honorary doctorate by Bastyr University.
Helen was a bright spirit—one could not help feeling better just being in her presence. A tall, beautiful, elegant woman of Norwegian heritage with a love of opera and of handsome jewelry, she was Robert’s full partner in their practice. She brought her intelligence, common sense, and nursing background to the warm and thoughtful care of patients, a number of whom became friends. She also ran the business side of things and helped deliver the naturopathic therapies. Dr. Overton proudly sent ND students to spend time with Helen to learn the basics of business practice.
Being with Helen was always fun and a sure passage to conversations with a heartfelt perspective. Recently she told the story of her experience as a young nurse in a Seattle hospital. In those days, the receptionist locked the hospital when she left work at six o’clock and was on call to open the doors if an emergency arose. Helen and some fellow nurses were the first to staff an Admitting department when the hospital began to stay open 24 hours. Helen was thrilled that an important part of the Admitting nurse’s job was to learn all about the patients and their families and to follow them through the hospital experience.
Helen lived every day what they both believed in and taught, taking care of her own body, mind, and spirit with such success that she lived to the age of 99 with all her faculties intact.
Helen was a very early supporter of what was then the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine. She was the lead volunteer in the first fund-raising events. She personally invested in the school in its early years, when such support for a little-known profession and a nearly invisible institution was hard to find. She helped to keep the history of the profession alive by educating many of us about the early years of the profession’s re-birth. She was always there to listen and encourage, to smile and lift our hearts.
Helen has been a dear, dear friend to us for more than 35 years and we grieve her death. It’s hard to think of a world without her in it. Solace comes from knowing that she lived a long and very wonderful life that brought her everything she wanted, and left her spirit in many.
Jointly submitted by
Cathy Rogers, ND, Bastyr’s first Academic Dean
Sheila Quinn, Bastyr’s first Vice President for Finance and Administrative Affairs and a Co-Founder
John Weeks, Bastyr’s first Vice President for External Affairs