By Tom Modugno
On October 20, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte came to Helen Modugno’s home to graciously issue a proclamation in honor of Helen’s 100th birthday.
Helen Grace was born on October 20, 1922 to Newt and Catherine Barnet in Paris Texas, the youngest daughter of a family of seven. Her father was a sharecropper and the whole family did what they could to survive.
Helen grew up during the Great Depression and survived a childhood of extreme poverty. She helped pick the cotton as a toddler and wore clothes her mother made for her from old flour sacks and she remembers having an orange in her stocking for Christmas one year and to have been delighted.
After high school, Helen moved to California and contributed to the war effort by working in an aircraft factory with other women and elderly men.
After the war, she worked as a cashier in a grocery store where she met her husband and the love of her life, Ralph. They dated for a few years and got married.
Helen voluntarily converted to Catholicism after marrying into an Italian family. They worked hard together and were eventually able to buy their own little grocery store in the San Fernando Valley.
Helen and her family moved to Santa Barbara Shores in Goleta in 1963 to escape the increasing crime and overcrowding in Los Angeles.
Helen lovingly raised six children and enjoyed playing and babysitting eleven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Helen never forgot the poverty of her youth and always wanted to give back to those less fortunate than herself. She also served St. Raphael’s Church in several capacities, including as a Sunday School teacher, President of the Women’s Auxiliary Council, and Extraordinary Minister, bringing Holy Communion to the sick and elderly confined to their homes. Helen has always stood up for women’s rights and fought to give women a greater role in the Catholic Church and in all aspects of life. Both Helen and Ralph were reliable donors to St. Raphael’s Church.
Helen worked as a volunteer librarian for Mountain View School for several years and was always willing to help out when needed.
Helen attributes her long life to healthy living and thanks her husband for convincing her to quit smoking at an early age, thus avoiding the lung cancer that claimed her sister’s life.
Her mind is still sharp and she was active on social media until she was over 90 years old.
Helen spends her days living peacefully in Goleta with loving help, taking daily walks in the neighborhood and enjoying regular visits from her family.