Obituary: Helen Moses Regenstein

Obituary: Helen Moses Regenstein

Helen Moses Regenstein passed away peacefully at her home on 20 April, at the age of 104.

Helen Moses Regenstein
Helen Moses Regenstein

Helen Moses Regenstein, a unique combination of gracious Southern Belle and endlessly loving, doting Jewish mother, best known for constantly overwhelming her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family, and friends with her famous but not so healthy yet irresistible, delicious goodies, like brownies, cheese crackers, and jelly cookies, plus industrial grade medicinal and nutritional chicken soup for those who were ailing, and, when she was younger and stronger, South Carolina, low country, hot pepper jelly, passed away peacefully at her home on 20 April, at the age of 104. She was the epitome of an elegant, beautiful, Southern Lady of impeccable taste, devoted to Culture and the arts, especially theater, symphony, and museums.

She grew up in Sumter, S.C., with her loving siblings, Licia and Graham, to whom she remained very close for all of their lives, along with their beloved spouses, Mitch and Rita. She graduated from Agnes Scott College and was happily married for 55 years to attorney Louis Regenstein, Jr., a senior partner in the renowned Old Atlanta law firm Kilpatrick, Cody, Rogers, McClatchey & Regenstein, now known as Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

A third generation native Atlantan, he was the valedictorian of his 1929 class of Boy’s High School and graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law. He served as chairman of the board of Regenstein’s department store, a big part of her life, started in 1872, which was the first retail company in the South to hire a female salesperson, a Civil War widow much in need of employment.

Together, Helen and Reg built successful careers and happy lives, raised their family, travelled the world, collected art, enjoyed the best food (none better than what she herself cooked), entertained exquisitely, hosted Elizabeth Arden at the “Gone with the Wind” Premiere Ball in 1939, supported numerous civic and charitable groups and enjoyed the company of a wide variety of friends and colleagues. They truly enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest. And always, they put their children and family first and foremost. They were totally devoted to each other, and after her husband passed away in 1985, not a day went by when she did not think, miss, or talk of him.

For years, she served as parliamentarian of the Atlanta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which honored her three years ago at Park Place for over 80 years of membership and support. She was a member of The Temple, a retired board member of The Alliance Theater, a Life Member of the High Museum, faithfully attended meetings of her Agnes Scott alumnae book club, and, until last year, would drive herself to and from exercise class every day at Jeanne’s Body Tech, miraculously travelling safely through the congested heart of Buckhead during rush hour, seemingly under the protection of a loving Divine Providence. There is no other explanation for her decades of safety and good fortune as her eyesight, hearing, and reflexes continued to decline.

When she attained the grand old age of 101, her health minded dear ones finally stopped nagging her to give up meat and other artery-clogging foods. If there was a secret to her longevity, she took it with her. But being tough and tenacious must have had something to do with it. After 14 months of loving care from the Weinstein Hospice, at home, refusing to die, Medicare kicked her out of hospice, but on she went, mostly blind, deaf, and unsteady, but not letting that stop her, though it did slow her down a bit. Still, with the help of her friend Shelly, she kept churning out her addictive treats.

She had a wide variety of friends, acquaintances, and associates, of many different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. They included many distinguished and now deceased “Old Atlantans” who helped build the city’s business, cultural, and political foundations. She often spoke of her husband’s successfully defending Martin Luther King, Jr., when Nixon’s IRS brought a tax case against him. Once, she organized a dinner in honor of the Supreme Court of the Ivory Coast, in Atlanta on a State Department sponsored goodwill trip, at a time when State was having trouble finding a family in Atlanta who would host them. She also took great pride in her family’s two and a half centuries of loyal service to the country and their beloved homeland, the South.

Being very modest, she rarely talked about but was very proud of her Southern Jewish family’s many patriots going back over 246 years. Three of her South Carolina ancestors supported and served in the American Revolution, and Rachel Moses — the daughter of our family’s “Founding father,” Myer Moses — is the only Jewish female known to have been killed under attack by the British during the War, being fatally wounded during the siege of Charleston, along with her nurse, by a cannonball that destroyed their home in May 1780.

Helen’s great-great-grandfather was the renowned Charleston journalist, editor, and playwright Isaac Harby, the leading founder of Reform Judaism in America. Other historic members of the extended family include Maj. Raphael Jacob Moses, of Columbus, the pioneer father of the peach industry in the South, being the first grower to figure out how to ship peaches out of state without damage.

She is the granddaughter of Andrew Jackson Moses, one of the five Moses brothers from Sumter who fought for the South from the beginning to the end of what she invariably called “the War Between the States,” along with some two dozen other members of the extended family who defended their homeland. The brothers’ uncle, Major Moses, attended the Last Meeting and carried out The Last Order of the Confederate government, which was to ensure that the remaining gold and silver bullion in the treasury be used to help his fellow soldiers from both sides, recovering in hospitals and straggling home after the surrender, often sick, wounded, exhausted and shoeless. Other distinguished ancestors are too numerous to be included here.

She is survived by her two children, Kent (Lynn) and Lewis Graham (“Reg”); four grandchildren — Paige (Michael) Schwartz, Jonathan (Beatrice) Regenstein, Anna (Kevin) Glaser and Daniel Regenstein, and seven great-grandchildren, Logan, Jackson, Lucy, Olivia, Roxanne, Eloisa and Abigail; numerous beloved nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws, including her home-cooked gourmet food providers, Harry Goode and Richard Smith. Survivors also include Phil Moise (Caroline). We are all grateful for the invaluable help and loyalty of Shelly Boline and Helen’s many caring and loving friends and neighbors. The family would also like to thank The Weinstein Hospice, especially Chikita Pickett, Julie Hamilton, Rosie Kamman, and Melissa Adamson for their loving care over the last year.

In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation to one of the organizations which meant so much to her: The Weinstein Hospice, 3150 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA, 30327; The Atlanta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 4437 Central Drive, Stone Mountain, GA 30083-2446; Agnes Scott College, 141 E. College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030; The Temple, 1589 Peachtree Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30309. Any arrangements for a memorial service will be announced. Arrangements by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770-451-4999.

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