Helen Janet Sims Curtis
July 28, 1923 – March 23, 2016
Helen Janet Sims Curtis was born in 1923 in El Centro, California. She was raised in Brawley by her parents Virgil and Pearl Sims who met while teaching high school in Colorado. She was very close with her sister, Virgene Sims Jack, (Alpha Gam, USC ’47) and her brother, Virgil Jones Sims (Cal Tech ’50). Helen had a very happy childhood growing up on the family ranch with horses, dogs, goats and a pig that thought he was a dog. She taught the pig to sit up before eating.
She graduated from Brawley Union High School in 1941. A few months before graduation, Helen had a chance to attend Newspaper Day at U.S.C. as one of three representatives of her high school. The day included a tour of the campus and her first USC football game, which they won. She grabbed an application and sent it right back with her parents blessings (they were both staunch Trojan supporters). She was admitted quickly. Her life had changed forever.
She attended the University of Southern California from 1941 through 1945. She was elected student body secretary at USC and had several other honors while on campus. She was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority and was chief justice of the religious council and was extensively involved in many other activities while on campus. She played the violin in the school orchestras. She played the violin every day from third grade through college. She continued volunteering in USC alumni organizations for many years and was honored by the USC General Alumni Association with the 1989 Alumni Service Award.
In 1948 she tried out for the Olympics in the low hurdles. She did not make the Olympics but she was one of the few women who were involved in sporting events at that time… She said they had to train in the early morning hours before sunrise because it was not appropriate to be out in public with shorts and athletic wear.
Her teaching career included 12 years as a first and second grade teacher (six in Los Angeles in a public elementary school), two years in Venezuela in two American Schools associated with the Oil Companies in Venezuela. Her final four years of teaching were in Pasadena after she married her husband (Louis L. “Bud” Curtis, USC ’45, Kappa Sigma Fraternity). They moved to the City of Anaheim for her husband’s work (General Contractor) in 1956. They had two sons, Lane (an Architect) and Brian (a Neuro-Surgeon).
Later in 1964, the family moved to Santa Ana Canyon, which later became Anaheim Hills. They wanted a little land to ride their horses and other outdoor activities. Little did they realize it would become crowded with housing tracks starting in the 1970’s.
Fifty years after graduating from USC, she was elected president of the Half Century Trojans board. She had been instrumental in the planning of the BUHS Class of ’45 reunions that occurred every 5 years until that time. Helen was a very active volunteer for most of her life until the last few years where mobility was a limiting factor, eventually receiving 2 knee replacements. She was active in many organizations, however, we will only name a few them: Covenant Presbyterian Church, Trojan Guild of Orange County, Trojan League of Orange County, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge Orange County Chapter, PEO (chapter KQ), Alpha Gamma Delta Alumni organization, Peralta Hills Estates Improvement Association, Anaheim Hills Trails Committee, Amantes Riding Group, El Viaje De Portola riding group assisting her husband, Bud, in the early years.
Helen passed away at St. Joseph’s hospital in Orange after a short illness on March 23, 2016 with her family at her side. She was 92 years young. She leaves her sons, Brian and Lane and Lane’s wife Jeannette, and many close nieces, nephews, and grand nieces and grand nephews.
Helen’s Celebration of Life will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church in the city of Orange at 11 a.m. on Saturday April 16th, 2016. In lieu of flowers, please feel free to donate in Helen’s name to one of her beloved organizations.