Helen Davis, US Nurse Cadet

1924 - 2020

FLY CREEK – In the early morning hours of Saturday, April 4, 2020, R. Helen Davis, a long-time resident of Fly Creek, retired Registered Nurse and cherished mother, passed peacefully with family by her side. She was 95 and the last of the Finnish area immigrants residing in Otsego County. 

Born July 27, 1924, in a farmhouse off Harrison Hill Road in Mount Vision, she lived her earliest years there, later moving with her family to a State Highway 205 farmhouse closer to Mount Vision village. Her parents, Jaakko and Anna (Veikkolainen) Puputti, immigrated by ships (the White Star Line “Cedric” and the Scandinavian American Line “United States”) from Jaakima, Finland in 1905 and 1913, respectively, entering America through Ellis Island. Their names were later immortalized there on the Immigrant Wall of Honor.

Helen was tasked with learning the English language upon entering Laurens Central School, graduating with the Class of 1943. In her teens she played the violin and particularly enjoyed playing a rendition of “Turkey in the Straw” but only after much parental coaxing at small Finnish gatherings. After high school she worked at the Oneonta Manufacturing Company producing mica for army equipment to be used in World War II. 

Helen’s brother, Eino Puputti (who changed his name to the more Americanized name of Edward Johnson) encouraged her to join the US Nurse Corps Cadets at the Binghamton City School of Nursing. While in nurse’s training the cadets worked in critically short staffed US hospitals during the war years and cared for the returning wounded soldiers. Helen served stateside as the war had ended before earning her RN degree in 1947. Helen started her profession at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown in the obstetrics department, a career that included an unexpected surprise rush delivery in the elevator. She later did private duty in Otsego County as well as Florida. She took several refresher courses at AO Fox Memorial Hospital to obtain her Florida RN license to work occasionally there as she enjoyed wintering in Florida near her daughter, Barbara. 

She married her first husband, Gerald F. Gage, a Tech 4 World War II veteran awarded a Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge. Together they raised their two children, Robert and Barbara. He predeceased her in 1988. 

She later married Donald A. Davis in the Fly Creek United Methodist Church, where they were devoted members for many years. They made their home on Cemetery Road in Fly Creek, where Helen continued to reside. 

Helen enjoyed meticulously tending her flower and vegetable gardens, spending time with her cats, travelling the US with Don in their fifth wheeler and fly fishing- Don was an accomplished fly tyer. After Don’s passing Helen continued travelling, often internationally to her beloved Finland four times and to countless destinations with Barbara and Ruth and many dear friends. 

In her later years, Helen enjoyed relaxing on her front porch “to watch the world go by” and to visit with the dedicated Fly Creek Volunteer Fire Company members across the street. She spoke fondly of all the members, Don having been a long-time member and having served at one time as Fire Chief. They were always willing to lend her a helping hand (or two) for many years. Helen was often seen walking in Fly Creek, taking time to stop to talk with friends and neighbors. Some of her hobbies included reading The Daily Star, tending her African Violets, watching the birds at the feeder as well as the numerous Hummingbirds that still flock to her bountiful red Bee Balm garden. 

Helen was as member of the Fly Creek Area Historical Society, the Milford and Hartwick Senior Citizen’s Clubs, the Christian Hill Women’s Club, the Cooperstown Women’s Club, the Native Daughters of Cooperstown and the Lake and Valley Garden Club, which held a special place in Helen’s heart as it was there that she met many other garden passionate people, several of whom remained dear friends for many years. 

Helen is survived by her children, Robert Gage and his partner, Sue Garvin of Fly Creek, and Barbara Stephenson of Westford, and a grandson, Gerald Gage and his fiancé Brittany Duncan of Clayville. Surviving also are two nieces Kate Lindsey and family of New Jersey, Los Angeles and Brooklyn and Ruth Johnson Hansen and her children, Tessa and Manja and her wife, Kris, all residing in Denmark. Helen leaves behind her “other daughter” and life time dear friend of Barbara’s, Susie Parshall and her husband, John Urbin of Texas. Surviving also are two step children, Duane Davis and wife, Sharon of Ohio and Florida and his sister, Joan Blankenship of South Carolina. 

She was predeceased by her husband, Donald A. Davis in 1998, and her beloved brother, Eino (Edward) Johnson, whose death at the age of 49 in 1967 was a profound loss for her. 

Helen’s strength, wisdom and kindness will continue to inspire all who knew and loved her. 

As a way to remember Helen, we respectfully request that any memorial donations be directed to the Fly Creek Volunteer Fire Company, PO Box 218, Fly Creek, NY 13337.

A graveside service will be at a later date when our Denmark family can attend. 

Arrangements are under the care of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown. 

If you would like to send condolences to the family, send an email to Connell, Dow & Deysenroth. We will forward your comments to the family. If you would like to send flowers in memory of the deceased, contact Mohican Flowers at (607) 547-8822, or A Rose is a Rose at (607) 264-3100.