Beloved Navigator Helene Ashker passed away May 30, 2010, in Dallas after 50 years on staff. Jerry White, The Navigators’ international president emeritus, describes Helene as a “pioneer among women in The Navigators. She was a constant defender of women in our work.”
Helene was born August 12, 1929, in Fall River, Massachusetts. She graduated high school in St. Petersburg, Florida, and returned north to attend Brooklyn College while working in the advertising department of the New York Daily News. While living in New York, she was active in Jack Wyrtzen’s Word of Life rallies.
Helene joined The Navigators in 1960 and through the years served in Pasadena, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Seattle, and Denver. In the 1970s she led the women’s ministry in Colorado Springs and became the women’s representative for The Navigators’ Western Region.
“[My wife] Mary and I first got to know her in the ’60s,” Jerry says. “I counted her as one of the most valuable and insightful members of my regional leadership teams for 10 years. She became not just a co-worker, but also one of our dearest and closest friends. She would speak truth as well as encouragement to me.
“Helene steadfastly pursued God in our midst with her two greatest passions—evangelism and in-depth training of staff women,” Jerry adds.
Helene was known for constantly sharing her faith with those she encountered, from prominent businesswomen to prison inmates. An example of her natural way of talking to people about Jesus is illustrated in a 2006 article on The Navigators’ website. She wrote two evangelistic Bible studies for NavPress, Jesus Cares for Women, published in 1987, and Jesus Changes Women, published in 1998. She also published numerous other Bible studies and articles.
During the 1990s she traveled internationally, frequently speaking on discipleship and leadership. Several of Helene’s presentations are available for download at Discipleship Library.
Navigator Metro Ministry staffer Fred Wevodau says, “Helene was such a refreshing lover of Jesus with a heart for the Gospel that challenged us all.”
Dozens of women lived with Helene for staff training in Denver and Seattle. Many of the women she influenced visited her in Dallas just before her passing. She had relocated to the Dallas area in the fall of 2009 to be near her family, and in hopes the lower elevation would improve her failing health. Fred says, “She died at home surrounded by friends and family. She was being read favorite Bible passages as her spirit was released from a weary body.”
“May her legacy be generations of women who give their lives to Jesus and to minister deeply to others,” Jerry added.
A memorial service will be held for Helene in July at Glen Eyrie, The Navigators’ headquarters in Colorado Springs.