Studio photo of a smiling older woman with glasses

Helen Thomsen. (Gillette Photography)

January 31, 1995 – Helen Fagg Thomsen, devoted musician and a founder of the Mendocino Community Library died, just a few days before her 88th birthday. Born in Detroit on February 4, 1907, she earned her undergraduate degree in 1929 from the University of Michigan. She came to California when she accepted a graduate fellowship in education at Mills College in Oakland for the 1929-1930 school year.

She met her future husband, Thorkild Thomsen, during a party at the Fagg family home, and they married in December 1929. From the Bay Area, they moved to Southern California where Helen taught nursery school, and later moved to Siskiyou County where they ran a ski resort.

They moved to Mendocino in 1943, and Helen taught at the Albion School for a year. She was also able to put her musical education to good use teaching piano, which she did for the next 20 years.

Her mother, Helen Fagg, moved to Mendocino in the mid-1940s, and in 1947 the two women established a town library in a room in Kellieowen Hall at the corner of Lansing and Ukiah streets. The room, and the first collection of books, were donated by Daisy MacCallum who owned the building and shared their enthusiasm for education and cultural enlightenment. With Helen’s subsequent life-long devotion, and the nurturance of the Mendocino Study Club, the Mendocino Community Library grew and prospered.

An active participant in community life, Helen was the 1946-1947 Mendocino Study Club president; president of the local counties’ chapter of the Federation of Women’s Clubs; and a member of the local League of Women Voters from its formation in 1965.

She was on the board of directors of the national Community Concert Association for 30 years. She worked with the Community Concert Association to bring high quality musicians to the coast for performances at Fort Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium. For many years, she wrote concert reviews for the Mendocino Beacon. In her later years, she hosted visiting musicians performing in the Mendocino Music Festival.

Ladies of the Afternoon by Jean Droz and Janet Barnes – This Kelley House Museum Review covers the history of the Mendocino Study Club over its 100 years of club activities and community projects. 20 pages. $12.