Helen B. G. Wise, 74, of Princeton died Saturday, February 1, 2020 at home, surrounded by her children. Born in Lynchburg, VA to Col. Samuel Stone Gregory, Jr., a self-proclaimed “poor, dumb dirt farmer,” and Helen Barksdale Martin Gregory, Helen was called “Monkey” by her father, “Lovely Eldest” by her mother, and “The General” by her younger siblings.
After graduating from Chatham Hall, Helen majored in theater at St Andrew’s Presbyterian College in North Carolina. She moved to Claremont, CA to pursue a Master of Arts in English, where, in search of a man who could help her buy a used car, she met and fell in love with Don Wise, an economics student from Los Angeles. Don had been admiring the slender brunette across the quad who he thought resembled Audrey Hepburn, and was more than happy to help her. A used car, a bounced check, a dead rattlesnake, and one rejected proposal later, they were married on August 24, 1968.
Helen and Don moved to the Princeton area in 1976, where Helen devoted herself to raising their six children, three of whom were adopted from Korea. Always seeking to enrich the lives of her children and family, and build strong communities around them, she engaged in many volunteer roles. Over the years, she acted as board president at Mary Dietrich Presbyterian Nursery School, served as an Elder at Nassau Presbyterian Church, led Marriage Encounter weekends, organized church Extended Family events, volunteered as Art Director at Holt Heritage Camp, coordinated events for Nassau Swim Club, and led fundraising efforts for the West Windsor-Plainsboro High School orchestra. For over twenty years, she took enormous pride and joy in leading Nassau Presbyterian Church’s 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School team, motivating hundreds of children to memorize the 23rd Psalm.
In the 1990s, Helen became a professional storyteller. She spent the next couple decades visiting Princeton and Trenton schools, delighting both children and teachers telling folktales and helping students bring their own stories alive. Helen combined her gifts as a storyteller and Christian educator to help develop the PC(USA)’s Storyteller Series curriculum.
Helen is preceded in death by her son Andrew Lee Wise, her husband Donald E. Wise, and her second husband John Schmidt. She is survived by five children and their spouses: Katharine Wise (Bill Pinches), Ryan Wise (Leslie Brunner), Jenny Borut (Jeff Borut), Mary Helen Wise, and Matthew Wise; eleven grandchildren: Andrew Pinches, Colin Pinches, Timothy Pinches, Samuel Pinches, Taylor Borut, Stella Borut, Caleb Wise, Benjamin Pinches, Catalina Wise, Isabelle Wise, and Alexandra Wise; and four siblings: Mary Riddle, Sallie Gregory, Stone Gregory III, and John Gregory.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00am on Wednesday, February 12 at Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, Princeton, following a private burial at Princeton Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Andrew Lee Wise Memorial Fund for Youth Music and Mission at Nassau Presbyterian Church.