Hastings resident Helen Mae Mullen, 91, departed this world on Sunday, , at Mary Lanning Healthcare, Hastings, NE after a brief illness.
Services are 10 a.m. Saturday, December 8, at Butler Volland Chapel in Hastings with
Rev. Anna E. Mosby officiating. Burial will be in Parkview Cemetery in Hastings. In lieu
of flowers, memorials may be given to Hastings College Perkins Library or Syracuse
University The iSchool for the Library and Information Science Program. Visitation will
be 6-8 p.m. Friday with family greeting friends and relatives, and one hour prior to
service at the funeral home. Private condolences may be sent to the family at
www.lbvfh.com. Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Home & Cremation Center is
serving the family.
Helen Mae Mullen was born on January 2, 1927. She and her twin brother, Hunter, were
the oldest of 13 children born to Hunter and Helen Mae Ellis Mullen. She was also the
first granddaughter of Roxie Anna Nevins Ellis Buckner.
Helen was raised in Hastings and graduated from Hastings High School in 1946. Chasing
her lifelong passion for books, she attended Hastings College receiving a Bachelor’s
degree in English in 1951. Her love of learning and spirit of excellence propelled her to
further her education by obtaining a Master’s degree from Syracuse University School of
Information Studies. Her goal was to be a children’s librarian in a public library and,
following graduation, she was recruited and hired by the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Beginning her career as the Children’s Librarian, she progressed to Coordinator of the
Office of Work with Children, the first and only Black woman to head a department of
the Free Library. In her 44 years there, Helen was instrumental in making the Free
Library of Philadelphia one of the flagship libraries in the country.
Always a visionary, she worked to establish libraries as an integral part of community
life. She was committed to identifying opportunities for the library to meet community
needs. She instituted the Pre-School Story Hour at the Frankford branch library in 1955
to address the literacy needs of young children in a forgotten community. Helen
developed programs about and in collaboration with the Philadelphia Zoo. The Teddy
Bear Program included Saturday storytelling at the Zoo, storytelling training about
animals and story hours in all 49 branches across the city. Over 10 years, several
thousand Girl Scouts, trained by Helen, participated as storytellers. She created Book
Sleepovers, Book Concerts for Children, and other creative events involving the Juilliard
String Quartet, Philadelphia Civic Ballet Company, Philadelphia Orchestra, and
Philadelphia Museum of Arts. For 14 years she shared books with the Youth Studies
Center, a secure youth detention facility. She served as a Consultant to World Book
Encyclopedia and the list goes on and on.
During her exemplary career, she was the face of the Library, serving on numerous
Boards of Directors, Councils, committees and organizations throughout the city and
country. She served as President of the United States Board on Books for Young People.
In 1981 she was elected President of the Association of Library Service to Children, the
children’s division of the American Library Association and the “world’s largest
organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library services to children.”
Helen was Board President of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of
Young Children, President of the Philadelphia Reading Roundtable, Board member of the
Philadelphia UNICEF Board and the Philadelphia Theater Company, and many more.
She also taught at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, Chestnut Hill
College and the Community College of Philadelphia.
A national authority on children and reading, she was the recipient of the Public Library
Association’s prestigious Allie Beth Martin Award; the Pennsylvania Library
Association’s Distinguished Service Award; the John N. Patterson Award for Excellence
in Education and many, many more. She also received Outstanding Alumni Awards from
both Hastings College and Syracuse University.
Helen traveled extensively across the United States and to numerous countries throughout
Europe. She also frequently visited family from New Jersey to California. She enjoyed
reading, traveling and the theater.
Family was most important to Helen. She was “Sis” to her 12 brothers and sisters and
“Aunt Helen” to her many nieces and nephews, and their friends as well. She shared her
love of books with age-specific gifts and was always available to listen and offer a word
of advice. While living and working in Philadelphia for over 40 years, she returned to
Hastings each summer and at Christmas to connect with her parents and family. After
moving back to Hastings, her greatest joy was seeing her home filled for family reunions
and July 4th cookouts followed by fireworks in the yard. Her love was unconditional, and
her door was always open.
In addition to her parents, Helen was preceded in death by seven siblings, Kennetha O.
Mosby; Wilda Lee Hill; Robert Eugene Mullen; Herman Mullen; Hunter Mullen, Jr.;
Rodney Allen Mullen and Faye Mullen.
She leaves to cherish her memories two brothers, Charles L. Mullen (Omaha, NE) and
Simuel M. Mullen (Chicago, IL); three sisters, Marceline Armstrong (Hastings, NE); Ada
M. Robinson (Lincoln, NE) and Eleanor A. Shanks (Chicago, IL); two sisters-in-law,
Marian C. Mullen and Paulette I. Mullen (both of Omaha, NE); 25 nieces and nephews;
numerous great-nieces and great-nephews, cousins, colleagues and friends.
Helen Mae Mullen was a gift from God to children, her community, and her family. She
made a difference and she will truly be missed.