Swarthmore Friends Meeting

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania







Memorial Minute for Helen Sharpless Pennock


Helen Sharpless Pennock, longtime member of Swarthmore Friends Meeting, died on April 20, 2010, at the Quadrangle Senior Living Community in Haverford , Pennsylvania .  She was 101-years-old.  She was predeceased by her husband of 64 years, J. Roland Pennock.

 Helen was born on August 21, 1908, at Glen Manor Farm in West Marborough Township , Pennsylvania .  Her parents, G. Walter Sharpless and his wife, Edith, had a dairy herd and also grew mushrooms.  She had two sisters, Esther Sharpless Otis, deceased, and Elizabeth Sharpless Jackson of Crosslands, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania .   When Helen was graduated from Westtown School in Chester County , at the age of 16, her father felt she was too young to attend college immediately.  He sent her to Pierce Business School in Philadelphia for one year after which she worked in the Alumni Office at the University of Pennsylvania .  She then attended Earlham College for three years before returning home for her marriage to Roland Pennock.  They had met as children, attending First Day School at London Grove Meeting, Pennsylvania , just up the road from her home.  Helenís family was Orthodox Friends and Rolandís family was Hicksite Friends.  At the time the Hicksites had no Sunday school, so Roland was sent up the hill to the big Orthodox Meetinghouse, where Helenís Mother was the teacher. 

 After their marriage Helen worked for the American Friends Service Committee and Pendle Hill before serving as Secretary of the Swarthmore Friends Meeting for 12 years. During her years in the Meeting Office, her special responsibility was pastoral care.  She was assigned the task of visiting new families and finding out how they would like to take part in the Meetingís life.  Her work was needed: Swarthmore Meeting was very large then Ė up to almost 900 members at its peak in the 1930s. This job was type-casting for Helen.  Never one to draw attention to herself, she was at the same time warm and out-going, with a genuine interest in people.  In some ways, she filled the same role informally, both in the Meeting and in the College community, for the rest of her life.  She helped new people feel welcome and fit in. Helen was the type of Meeting member who could rightly be called a pillar: attending regularly at Meeting for Worship and cheerfully performing any tasks she was given. She served on the House Committee (House and Property were separate Committees then, segregated by sex, as well), and on Care and Counsel, and Visiting Committee.

 She provided constant support for Professor Pennock during his 47-year career as a Political Scientist at Swarthmore College , opening their home to other faculty members, returning alumni, Board members, outside examiners, and feeding countless Political Science seminar students.

She is survived by her daughters, Joan Pennock Barnard of Orleans , Massachusetts , and Judith Carther Pennock Lilley of Chapel Hill , North Carolina , six grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.  She is buried next to her husband at the Friends Meetinghouse in London Grove, where they were married in 1931. A Memorial Service will be Saturday, August 28, at 2:00 p.m. at London Grove Meeting.

Prepared by the Care and Counsel Committee and Mary Manglesdorf, July, 2010