Helen Milligan, 104, took her final curtain call on Friday, May 15, 2020. Helen was born in 1915 in Waynetown to Clifford and Ruby Bunnell. She was blessed with two brothers, William and Emery. Two special relatives, Bill and Marie Rider were also very important in Helen’s upbringing.
Helen was an artist at a very young age. Her talents in painting, sculpting, egg decorating, knitting, crocheting and interior design were well known and admired throughout this community and beyond. Her greatest joy came from acting. Her first performance was at age 3 and she was in numerous plays while in school at Waynetown. After graduation, she continued to perform with several theater troupes. She was a proud member of Sugar Creek Players, the Scarlet Masque, and her beloved Vanity Theater. Her favorite play was “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Other memorable parts were in “Harvey, You Can’t Take it With You,” “Grease,” “Spoon River Anthology,” “Thurber Carnival,” “Carousel,” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” She often gave speeches on women’s rights and portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln at festivals and Republican Party events. In the 1970s she wrote, produced, directed and acted in “The Awful Drop,” a play about the 1885 hanging of John Coffee at the Montgomery County Rotary Jail.
Helen had a passion for life that led her through many hardships. Her family survived the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and two World Wars. She contracted tuberculosis at the end of her senior year of high school and was quarantined at home for several months.
In 1937 Helen married Robert “Bob” Drake and gave birth to her first son, James Robert Drake, in 1938. Bob and Helen divorced and she was a single working mother for several years. During this time she worked at Ben Hur Insurance where her uncle, Bill Rider was president. While working there she helped lead and organize the Simonides Court (also known as the Junior Court) which was housed in a small Adobe building next-door to the Ben Hur building.
In 1949 Helen met the love of her life, Milford “Junior” Milligan. They married in 1950. They built a home on Country Club Road where Helen lived until she was 100 years old. Helen and Junior had their first child together, Charles Milligan, in 1951 quickly followed by daughter, Nanette Milligan Kentner, in 1952. Junior was a loving stepfather to Jim and they shared a special bond. Helen was a wonderful mother, always using her many talents to brighten her family’s days. There was never a dull moment at the Milligan home.
In addition to Helen’s involvement in theater she was also active in the Republican Party, Daughters of the American Revolution, Eastern Star, Current Events Club, The Historical Society, Psi Iota Xi Sorority, the Art League of Montgomery County and Wabash Ave. Presbyterian Church. Twice in her life she was honored with a proclamation of “Helen Milligan Day” in Crawfordsville by Mayors Zumer and Barton. She was also honored as a lifelong member of the Vanity Theater, her second home.
Helen’s husband, Jr., led the way to heaven in 1992. In 2000 Helen lost her precious son, Jim, to cancer. She is survived by her children Charles and Nanette, both of Crawfordsville. Helen and Jr. (Mimi and Poppie) were totally devoted to their granddaughter, Jennifer Kentner Brunty, along with their great grandchildren, Tyler and Abigail Brunty and grandson in law John Brunty.
Helen is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, and countless friends, neighbors and loved ones. She was truly a blessing to all who were lucky enough to know her.
Her family would like to thank the caretakers at Ben Hur Home who loved her and lovingly stayed by her side until her last breath was taken. We will never forget their amazing compassion. We would also thank our pastor, Dr. John Van Nuys, for his gift of prayer that he graciously shared with Helen at her passing.
Due to current restrictions, a private service will be held at this time. When restrictions are lifted a celebration of life will be held. Hunt and Son Funeral Home is assisting with arrangements. Donations in Helen’s memory may be made to the Vanity Theater, 122 S. Washington St., Crawfordsville, IN, 47933.