Helen Emily Changras
May 18, 1930-Sept. 27, 2020
Helen Emily Kuh was born in Chicago in 1930, the youngest of three children. She graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL. In 1948, Helen moved west to attend Colorado College. She married the next year in her hometown of Glencoe, IL, and moved to Boulder, then Denver, CO, to raise her family. In 1960, Helen and her three children relocated to the Bay Area to be nearer to her beloved brother, Fred Kuh, then owner of The Old Spaghetti Factory and Excelsior Coffee House, and later of The Savoy Tivoli, in San Francisco’s North Beach. She and the children lived in Mill Valley and she worked as a legal secretary for Melvin Belli, joining the exclusive Belli's Belles. Helen later moved to Moraga before settling in Orinda. She devoted many years to managing the Savoy Tivoli, helping to create a one-of-a-kind community of friends that still feels like family today.
Helen's love for the natural world was a big part of the nurturing she provided her children. She loved all animals and had a special affinity for birds, especially hummingbirds. She was also passionate about the arts. She adored blues and jazz and, in her twenties, sang professionally. Later in life, classical music was a daily source of relaxation. She read, attended concerts and theater, dabbled in many arts and crafts, and knitted and stitched endlessly.
In addition, Helen was a lifelong lover of culture and travel. Hawaii and Mexico were among her favorite places to visit. In 1983, on a weekend trip in the Sierras, she met Tom Changras. They married the next year and settled in Pleasanton, where they lived for most of the next 36 years. Helen appreciated all that Pleasanton had to offer and participated exuberantly in many community organizations, including the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Program, volunteering and adopting many pets with Valley Humane Society, playing mah-jongg with friends from the Senior Center, winning ribbons for her stitching and her roses at the Alameda County Fair, and attending the Fair every summer.
Helen had an extraordinarily generous spirit and thrived on bringing joy to others. She is survived by her loving husband Tom of 36 years, children Kathleen “Kea” (Kenn Hochstetler) of Tallahassee, FL; January (Sam Whitehead) of Waimea (Kamuela), HI; and Rick (Becky Clark) of Anchorage, AK, as well as 11 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren.