Friday, June 28, 2019

Helen Oakley

Helen Oakley (b. New York, New York, 10 February 1906; d. Manhasset, New York, 4 January 2003)

Helen Fairchild McElvey was the middle of three children of Ralph Huntington McElvey (1877-1957), an artist, and Helen A. Fairchild (1879-1964), who were married on 15 July 1903.  Helen had two brothers.

Helen graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1928. She founded a bookshop in New York City in 1929, and ran it for twelve years. Helen married Walter T. Oakley (1913-2000), who worked in publishing, on 6 August 1938. She and her husband settled in Manhasset on Long Island. They had two daughters. Later she taught art and creative writing classes and worked as a library assistant. 
Helen Oakley

As Helen Oakley, she published four books of fiction for young girls:  The Horse on the Hill (1957); The Ranch by the Sea (1959); The Enchanter's Wheel (1962); and Freedom's Daughter (1968). She also compiled a small monograph, An Alphabet of Christmas Words (1966), as selected by Helen McKelvey Oakley.

Walter Oakley
As Helen McK. Oakley she wrote a booklet Christopher Morley on Long Island (1967), about the once well-known author Christopher Morley (1890-1957) who had lived for many years in nearby Roslyn, Long Island. Oakley became greatly interested in Morley, and wrote the only (to-date) full-length biography of him, Three Hours for Lunch: The Life and Times of Christopher Morley (1976).  It was published by Watermill Publishers, a short-lived firm run by Arthur Coleman that published a half dozen books between 1973 and 1979, four of them written by Coleman himself. Three Hours for Lunch is Oakley's most significant book.

Oakley died in Manhasset about one month shy of her 97th birthday. 

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